MAP FAQ

It goes without saying that all other testing is useless if the package leaks!

Sealing integrity is possibly the single most important element of quality control in MAP; if a package’s seal integrity is compromised, a leak will cause loss of the protective atmosphere and the shelf life of the food will be reduced, resulting in costly returns.

A package leak detector is therefore a vital part of MAP quality control. In recognition of this, Dansensor has developed state-of-the-art package leak detection equipment for testing the integrity of the seal.

Seal integrity can be compromised through a number of different routes. For example particles of the product being packaged may come between the tray and the seal. Another potential source of a breach in seal integrity is that the heating element that creates the thermal seal may be defective or misaligned, or there may be issues with the pressure, heat and duration of the sealing process. All these can result in seal integrity being compromised.

It is vital for quality control and quality assurance that leak detection equipment works as quickly and as accurately as possible. If seal integrity problems go undetected, issues are likely to arise with the product resulting in unwanted returns and potential damage to the relationship with a customer.

An efficient seal integrity monitoring system with a reliable leak detector can identify potential problems with the packaging process before these problems become serious is vital to ensure package integrity.

Yes, by controlling the package’s internal environment for oxygen and moisture content, the cleanliness of the packaging process, and the mixed gas ratios can determine the product’s intended shelf life. Ultimately, the shelf life can be extended up to several weeks under a finely controlled packaged environment.

Performance characteristics of Modified Atmosphere Packages are easily tested to assure that packages meet quality standards.

Spot testing instruments can check, measure and analyze the amount of “head-space” air between the product and the package substrate within a random sampling of packages. Random MAP testing is typically done at pre-set intervals throughout the packaging operation to assure consistency. Spot testers, which rely on built-in air collection pumps to prevent atmospheric air from entering the package, offer immediate readings.

Hand-held headspace gas analyzers offer a fast check on oxygen or oxygen and carbon dioxide gas combinations within representative package samples.

Gas analyzers automatically measure and record in a seamless process that provide uniform, traceable data reports. Measurements are displayed on a screen, stored in the computer and may be simultaneously sent to a printer, when a paper record is desired.

When packaging in modified atmosphere it is crucial to ensure that the gas mixture is correct and the package is not leaking. For most products it is also important to set limits for the maximum and minimum residual oxygen level in the packages.

According to EU and US regulations all manufacturers producing products with a reduced oxygen content or protective atmosphere have to set up critical control points regarding both the gas content and the seal integrity. As a minimum you will need to follow basic Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) rules.

Basic HACCP – Analysis
  • What can go wrong? (e.g. wrong gas mix, incorrect residual oxygen level, leaking package)
  • What can you do to prevent this from happening?
  • Control (objective proof)
Basic HACCP - Critical Control Points (CCP)
  • Establish a procedure to ensure that the packaging process is always under control
  • If something goes wrong – how can you get the process back in control?
  • What will you do with the incorrectly packaged products?
  • How do you stop the process?
  • What will you do to prevent this from happening again?

The simplest form of quality control for MAP products includes taking out samples on a frequent basis, e.g. taking out samples every 15 or 30 minutes according to production speed. The sealing of the packages should then be inspected for leaks – preferably using a non-destructive test method. Afterwards the gas mix and residual oxygen level should be checked using a headspace analyzer.

The result of the above tests should as a minimum be recorded on paper for traceability purposes, however, it is far more convenient and efficient to let the headspace analyser collect the data and store it in a central database or on a PC.

When setting up the random quality control it is important to notice that even though you take 10 samples per hour the statistical significance could be as low as 0.15%. The table below gives an idea of the relation between packaging speed and samples taken.

Tests per hour

Packaging Speed (number of packages per minute)

30

50

70

90

110

5

0.28%

0.17%

0.12%

0.09%

0.08%

10

0.56%

0.33%

0.24%

0.19%

0.15%

15

0.83%

0.50%

0.36%

0.28%

0.23%

20

1.11%

0.67%

0.48%

0.37%

0.30%

Contact us to learn more about setting up a MAP Audit to mitigate risk and ensure you have a proper quality control procedure in place.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) has proven to be one of the strongest packaging concepts for a great variety of products.

As research progresses, still more products are entering the long list of MAP products. The driving force behind this distinctive gas packaging trend is the combination of a strong consumer appeal (fresh products) and a number of benefits to the retailers in connection with logistics, product presentation, value added products, extended food shelf life, removing preservatives, etc.

The purpose of gas flushed packaging is to give the product a long shelf life. To have success with modified atmosphere packaging, it is thus paramount that you have the means to control whether the actual packaging process is geared to fulfil this purpose. Otherwise you may become the victim of poor experience which could damage your market position.

Quality control is the key word for extended product shelf life.

We recommend that the food chemistry determine the gas mixture. That is, the type of gas mixture depends on the type of food used to establish a target shelf life. Collecting critical food science data is essential with helping to know what kind of gas mixture will be required.

We recommend retail baked goods use a 50% CO2 and 50% N2. Although our recommendations for bulk baked goods is a 70% CO2 and 30% N2 ratio.

We recommend Retail raw red meats use a 70% O2 and 30% CO2, except for venison and wild boar – 80% O2 and 20% CO2. Although our recommendations for Bulk raw red meat is a 65% O2 and 35% CO2, except Pork – 80% CO2 and 20% N2, and venison and wild boar - 80% O2 and 20% CO2 ratio. We also recommend for Primal raw red meats use a 50% CO2 and 50% N2, except for pork – 80% CO2 and 20% N2.

A wide variety of products are gas flushed, some typical products are:
  • Fresh Meat
  • Processed Meat
  • Coffee
  • Cheese
  • Milk Powder/Baby Formula
  • Fresh Pasta
  • Fruit & Vegetables
  • Ready-to-Eat- Meals
  • Case Ready Meat
  • Fresh Poultry
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Snack Foods / Potato Chips