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What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging?

Many foods today are processed by a method known as modified atmosphere packaging or MAP. It provides several benefits to both food processors and the consumer, and although it is nothing new it is partly responsible for the wide range of fresh food products we enjoy today. Let’s look a little closer at MAP to see how it works and why it is beneficial.

The MAP Process

The main purpose behind the process is to provide the best blend of three gasses, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen. This requires a special gas mixture which has been specially developed for MAP processing. In order to maintain the specially produced atmosphere, foil and plastic films are utilized. They can be in the form of bags, trays or other containers.

How MAP-Works?

As foods age, they can change color, collect odors and taste can be seriously altered. In addition, when a food becomes spoiled it can get rancid and this is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. When foods are placed in a controlled atmosphere, the process of aging is slowed down. This helps to limit spoilage.

Modified atmosphere packaging allows food to breathe properly and helps to preserve the taste and visual appeal. It is often used for produce, cheeses, prepared and baked goods and dried and cured foods. The main purpose is to increase the shelf life of the products.

MAP Benefits

There are a number of benefits to MAP. For example:

Longer shelf life means less work for those stocking the foods.

Less waste is created and there is considerably less spoilage to deal with.

Very few preservatives (or none) are added to the processed foods. This helps to maintain a fresh and natural taste and this is more appealing to consumers concerned about food additives.

Products are effectively sealed so leakage and odors are not a problem.

Containers can be easy to stack which requires less storage or warehouse space.

Distribution costs are lowered considerably because products last longer and need to be replaced less frequently.

Products are produced in highly visible packages making them more appealing.

Map Disadvantages

Cost – it costs more to pack foods under a controlled atmosphere

Initial startup costs are higher for businesses

If products become torn or damaged, they lose all the benefits of processing.

Thanks to the many benefits of modified atmosphere packaging, we have a greater selection of foods which are tastier and more appealing to the senses. All the good things about the process far outweigh the few downsides.

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