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The principal roles of food baking packaging and food containers are to protect food products from outside influences and damage, to contain the food, and to provide consumers with ingredient and nutritional information. Traceability, convenience, and tamper indication are secondary functions of increasing importance. The goal of food packaging is to contain food in a cost-effective way that satisfies industry requirements and consumer desires, maintains food safety, and minimizes environmental impact.
As everyone knows, food containers and packaging can retard product deterioration, retain the beneficial effects of processing, extend shelf-life, and maintain or increase the quality and safety of food. In doing so, these food containers provide protection from 3 major classes of external influences: chemical, biological, and physical.
Chemical protection minimizes compositional changes triggered by environmental influences such as exposure to gases (typically oxygen), moisture (gain or loss), or light (visible, infrared, or ultraviolet). Many different packaging materials can provide a chemical barrier. Glass and metals provide a nearly absolute barrier to chemical and other environmental agents, but few packages are purely glass or metal since closure devices are added to facilitate both filling and emptying. Closure devices may contain materials that allow minimal levels of permeability. For example, plastic caps have some permeability to gases and vapors, as do the gasket materials used in caps to facilitate closure and in metal can lids to allow sealing after filling. Plastic packaging offers a large range of barrier properties but is generally more permeable than glass or metal.
Biological protection provides a barrier to microorganisms (pathogens and spoiling agents), insects, rodents, and other animals, thereby preventing disease and spoilage. In addition, biological barriers maintain conditions to control senescence (ripening and aging). Such barriers function via a multiplicity of mechanisms, including preventing access to the product, preventing odor transmission, and maintaining the internal environment of the package.
Physical protection shields food from mechanical damage, that includes cushioning against the shock and vibration encountered during distribution. Typically developed from paperboard and corrugated materials, physical barriers resist impacts, abrasions, and crushing damage, so they are widely used as shipping containers and as packaging for delicate foods such as eggs and fresh fruits. Appropriate physical packaging and containers also protect consumers from various hazards. For example, child-resistant closures hinder access to potentially dangerous products. In addition, the substitution of plastic packaging for products ranging from shampoo to soda bottles has reduced the danger from broken glass containers.