Foodpackage Interactions

Food-package interactions are chemical and physical interactions that occur between the food and the package. Corrosion of a metal food can is an example of a chemical interaction between the food and the inner surface of the can. Mass transport between the food and the package is an example of a physical interaction—volatile compounds can move from the package into the food, a phenomenon called migration; conversely, volatile compounds or flavor from the food can be absorbed by the package, a phenomenon called scalping.

The first phenomenon, migration of volatile compounds into the food, is a greater concern because of the potential health hazard resulting from exposure to toxic migrants. The volatile compounds may arise from many sources, such as residual monomers and oligomers in the plastic packaging materials that cannot be easily eliminated during the polymerization process; residual processing aids and additives (lubricants, plasticizers, slip agents, antioxidants, light stabilizers, antistatic agents, etc.); and residual printing ink solvents used on the package. These volatile compounds may cause the food to acquire undesirable flavors or, in some cases, toxic components.

The migration of volatile compounds from microwave susceptors has received considerable attention in the past decade (8). A microwave susceptor is a metallized plastic or paper laminate that can convert the microwave energy into heat to rapidly achieve a high surface temperature (>400°F). It allows the food in contact with the hot surface to brown and crisp. The high temperature can cause degradation of the plastic layer in the microwave susceptor and result in migration of undesirable volatile compounds into the food.

The second phenomenon, scalping, may lead to diminished quality of the food. Flavor scalping is a major concern for aseptic fruit juice packages (9). Research has shown that absorption of flavor compounds may also adversely affect the barrier characteristics of the packaging material.

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