The importance of high purity gases in the food industry

Food grade gases are integral to extending shelf life, improving the quality of products and increasing food safety.

Extending shelf life

The media attention on food waste ensures it continues to be an area of focus for food producers. Using gases in processes like Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) helps play a huge (and often unseen) role. By extending the shelf life of food products, MAP helps to keep food fresh from the production line through to the supermarket shelf and beyond.

This helps to tackle food waste early in the production process, well before the final product reaches the shopping basket. And with more than 1.8 million tonnes of food waste generated by food manufacturers – worth a hefty £1.4 billion – technologies that can help tackle this are understandably popular.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly health conscious and there is a government led drive to reduce the salt and sugars in our food and drink. Whilst to reduce them it might ultimately be better for us as consumers, it leaves something of a challenge for manufacturers as they act as preservatives. So, it requires a new approach to make sure that products can still be packaged, transported, shelved and sold in a workable timeframe, that's where MAP gases can help.

Quality

In addition to their ability to improve shelf life, there are significant benefits of using food grade gases, such as liquid nitrogen. In technologies like individual quick freezing (IQF) and crust freezing, these gases can help to maintain food quality and reduce food waste.

LIN-IS freezing

For example, using the latter to freeze the very outer layer of ham allows it to be cut into crisp slices without tearing or compromising the final product. This also helps in reducing overall food waste as fewer tears result in fewer production line rejects.

Similarly, the gases that facilitate LIN-IS freezing help to ensure uniformity of product and quality control. A great example is that of beef burgers where the specialist gases can cool minced meat to an optimum temperature; if it's too warm the edges will tear when the burger is formed, damaging the aesthetic of the product, and creating additional food waste. Using liquid nitrogen as part of a rapid freezing process is another way of maintaining the aesthetic of a product. It works quicker than traditional food freezing methods which means the ice crystals that form are smaller, helping to retain taste, texture, appearance and 'freshness'.


Food safety

High purity gases also play a role in maintaining food safety and tackling harmful bacteria. Their contribution to chilling and freezing processes have played a considerable role in combatting campylobacter in recent years. Air Product's Freshline® SafeChill™ system for poultry directs super-cooled air flow onto the surface of chickens, where campylobacter lives, effectively reducing bacteria.

Food safety

Many companies are already making effective use of these technologies. Competition is fierce, and consumers require high quality, so manufacturers will need to give more consideration to how their product is presented. While this may lead to greater uptake of high purity gases, it's worth considering the use of them in areas where they haven't traditionally been used previously.

With the right research and development behind it, we could see these gases being applied in brand new ways that help manufacturers and their products to stand out from the pack.


Modified Atmosphere Packaging and cryogenic freezing and chilling can help you create beautiful food, safely and with the assurance of full traceability.


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