Types Of Containers

The types of containers used for low-acid and acidified foods have expanded quite a bit in the past 20 years. The metal can has proven to be a versatile and well-established container, but the industry is also producing low-acid and acidified products in glass, semirigid, and flexible containers.

The metal can commonly used is either a three-piece steel can or two-piece steel or aluminum can. The can designation is determined by the number of metal pieces needed to form the can. Three-piece cans are formed from three pieces of metal: top, bottom, and body. The cylindrical body is formed from one piece of metal rolled and joined by welding a side seam. Two-piece cans are formed from two pieces of metal: a top-end and can body that includes the bottom. The body and bottom are formed from one flat, circular piece of metal by either a drawing and ironing process or a drawing and redrawing process. The can tops (and bottoms for three-piece cans) are attached to the can bodies in a complex, double-seaming operation. In addition to the familiar cylindrical can, the industry also uses oblong, rectangular, and half steam table tray metal cans.

Glass packages (jars or bottles) are another common container and are probably more readily used for acid and acidified food than the metal can. The glass container is sealed with a metal closure to ensure the integrity of the package. The closure may be one of several different designs. The lug or twist cap and the PT (Press-on Twist-off) cap are commonly used for low-acid food products and will withstand the retort pressure process. The plastisol-lined, continuous thread cap is often used for acidified foods.

Semirigid and flexible containers are gaining wider acceptance in the marketplace. Some semirigid and flexible containers, such as the retort pouch, plastic containers with double seamed metal ends, and some semirigid containers with heat-sealed lids, will withstand the pressures of a retort process and are suitable for low-acid foods. Other containers (paperboard, flexible pouches, and semirigid containers with heat-sealed lids) will not withstand retort processing, but low-acid foods can be packaged acceptably into them with aseptic processing and packaging techniques. All of these semirigid and flexible containers have been adapted for use with acidified and acid products that do not require a severe heat process.

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