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Research tests the impact on shelf life of reduced CO2 in MAP

01 September 2020

Research conducted by Air Products has shown that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) can be reduced to as low as 20% while still maintaining the ability to extend the shelf life of food products. 

It has already been proven that MAP technology can extend the shelf life of packaged foods without the need for added preservatives – replacing the atmospheric air present in food packaging with carbon dioxide, nitrogen or oxygen, either on their own or in combination, depending on the product. The role of CO2 is to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and it is well documented that higher levels of the gas deliver extended shelf life. 

The research set out to provide clarity on the relationship between shelf life and the reduction of CO2 in the MAP mix. Several gas mixtures with differing CO2 concentrations were evaluated to determine the lowest CO2 content able to prolong food shelf life. The study tested four gas mixtures with CO2 concentrations of 10, 20, 30 and 40% balanced with nitrogen, and one control, using air, and measured their impact on a sample of ready-to-eat meatballs inoculated with microorganisms.  

The findings demonstrated that the longest shelf life of at least 28 days was achieved using a CO2 ratio of between 30 to 40%. When the level of CO2 was dropped to 20%, a maximum shelf life of 21 days was achieved, while CO2 concentrations of below 20% delivered shelf life results equal to that of meatballs packed in air, which is typically limited to a maximum of 14 days. These findings support other studies which have shown CO2 is effective against microbes from concentrations as low as 20% but that concentrations need to be higher to maximise shelf life.

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