Gaspackaging Equipment

The gas-packaging technique involves removing air from the pack and replacing it with a mixture of gases; the pressure of gas inside the package usually reaches about 1 atm, that is, equal to the external pressure. This is usually achieved by one of three types of packaging equipment: horizontal or vertical flexible packaging equipment, ther-moform/fill/gas flush/seal or preformed tray fill/vacuum gas flush/seal equipment, and snorkel or related bulk packaging equipment.

In the continuous flow wrap/gas flushing technique, the machine creates a tube of flexible material that encloses the product either by itself or on a carrier tray. The appropriate gas mixture is introduced in a continuous counter-current flow into the package to force the air out, the ends of the package are heat sealed, and the packages are cut from each other (Fig. 1).

In either the preformed tray or thermoform/fill/gas flush/seal technique, a compensated vacuum method is used to introduce the gas mixture. In this method, product is placed into a thermoformed tray and a vacuum is drawn to remove most of the air. The vacuum is broken by the appropriate gas mixture and the package heat sealed with a top web of film (Fig. 2). An example of a thermoformed gas-packaged product is shown in Figure 3. One advantage of the in-line thermoform method of gas packaging is the high efficiency of removing oxygen to residual levels of <1%. The in-line thermoforming type of equipment may also be used for vacuum packaging or vacuum skin packaging. The advantage of gas flushing versus vacuum plus back gas flush is its high production rate, with up to 120 packages/min being gas packaged.

The third type of equipment is the snorkel or bulk package equipment. The product, whether in the packaged form or without a package, is placed inside a large flexible pouch. The machine holds the pouch and inserts probes or snorkels that remove the air from inside the bag. The

Package

\Gas mixture

Figure 1. Horizontal flow wrap/fill/seal gas packaging equipment.

Figure 2. Thermoform/fill/vacuum/gas flush/seal packaging equipment. 1, Sheet; 2, formed cavity; 3, top closure web; 4, gas flush.

Product

Figure 2. Thermoform/fill/vacuum/gas flush/seal packaging equipment. 1, Sheet; 2, formed cavity; 3, top closure web; 4, gas flush.

Figure 3. Example of a thermoformed gas-packaged meat product. The irregular base keeps the product above the package floor in order to have exposure to the modified atmosphere on all surfaces.

vacuum is broken by the addition of the appropriate gas mixture, the probes are removed, and the package is sealed. This type of equipment is used for bulk packaging and retains the product in the gas-packaged bag throughout storage and distribution of the product. Obviously, this type of equipment may also be employed for vacuum packaging, such as for primal cuts of fresh red meat or fresh-cut vegetables.

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