Primary goals for food manufacturers are to assure quality and safety of their food throughout its shelf life while answering consumer demand for ease of opening food packages.
Food packaging materials are often selected based on the way food products need to be wrapped. Did you know that the proper sealant of a flexible food package also plays a role in protecting food from contamination and spoilage? Seal contamination is when food particles (solid, power, liquid, semi-solid, or other contaminants), air and/or microorganisms enter the package through a poor seal. Poor seals and contaminations cause channel leakage throughout the production and distribution cycle and contribute to food spoilage and waste. The ability of food manufactures to encapsulate food particles during production packaging increases food and packaging integrity and minimizes contamination and leakage.
Here are five considerations to protect food packages from seal through contamination.
- Polymer Performance– Types of polymers (Plastomers, Ionomers, Elastomers, LDPE, LLDPE, MLLDPE, VLDPE, mVLDPE, EVA) act differently with regard to seal performance. Polymers performances with hot-tack and seal strengths tend to vary. Seal temperatures, hot tack and seal strengths should also be considered when selecting flexible packaging polymers. Food manufactures should work with suppliers to identify polymer properties that improve a sealants ability to effectively encapsulate and decrease channel leaks.
- Sealants – A key factor to controlling infiltration and protecting from seal through contamination is selection of the right sealant for the foods being packaged. Melt index, density, Zero Shear Viscosity are important considerations. Other key considerations for choosing sealants are: Food contact acceptance, Toughness Optics, Organoleptics, Stiffness, Seal around contamination, Process/filling equipment
- Sealing Temperature – When looking for ways to shorten the packaging cycling process, manufacturers attempt to adjust the heat seal parameters, which can have an effect on proper seal - Dial in on right seal temperatures.
- Seal Strength - A broader hot tack strength window could impact the hot tack curve between actual seal temp and hot tack initiation temperature and filling efficiency and seal contamination. Heat seal strength is significant to the evaluation of the performance of the packaging material in storage in order to avoid leak problems which may occur in transportation, storage and display. Learn more about Hot Tack Force.
- Dwell Times – Another tactic for shortening the packaging cycle is to decrease the dwell time. At shorter dwell times, there may be insufficient heat at the seal interface to melt or soften the sealants. Sufficient time to flow around contaminant is needed to encapsulate.
A hot tack tester, the dwell time for heat sealing and hot tack, sealing temperature and heat seal pressure could be adjusted as required to protect from seal through contamination. Ask your supplier for assistance in testing for optimum requirements.
Selecting quality packaging and ensuring quality seal performance together will meet the goals of ensuring food quality, minimizing leakage, spoilage and food waste.
Century Flexible Packaging can assist you by testing for optimum hot tack requirements and make suggestions for supply solutions that will meet quality assurance, food safety and customer demands for convenient food packaging. Contact Century Flexible Packaging today for your free consult.