2018/01/08

Ethylene scavengers to extend the shelf life of fresh fruit

Category: Plastics in the food industry

The development of new packages and packaging technologies for fresh fruits and vegetables is a constant for packaging companies, in order to give an answer to the fresh products growing demands of consumers.

One of the keys in the development of active packaging for fresh products is to identify the food degradation mechanisms and act on them in order to reduce or delay these processes and thus increasing the shelf life of the product. In the case of fresh fruits, one of the critical points is acting on ethylene, produced in the fruit’s ripening process. Besides, its presence speeds up the degradation process. Ethylene, a plant hormone produced during the ripening of fruits and vegetables, is the responsible for the modifications of the respiration rate, tissue softening and other physiological disorders, thus accelerating the senescence of fruits and vegetables.

Commercial solutions

There are market solutions that use the above mentioned chemical retardants, incorporating them into the packaging materials, solutions that can be found at commercial level. Most of these solutions intended to remove the packaging’s ethylene can be found as sachets inside the packaging, with a limited acceptance by the consumer, and to a lesser extent, in solutions integrated directly in packaged material, solutions that are growing in popularity.

The objective of these solutions is to extend the shelf life of packaged fresh products due to the adsorption of ethylene by the dispersed compounds integrated into plastic. For that purpose, shelf life tests are performed to compare common materials with materials with scavenger compounds on its matrix. In this sense, AIMPLAS has an extensive experience in the development of active packaging, in assessing and helping to the development of customized solutions based on both commercial products and new developments.

Mechanisms in packages

There are different mechanisms of action to reduce or eliminate ethylene from packages and extend the shelf life of fruit. We work with ethylene scavenger compounds, whose aim is to eliminate ethylene from the environment of fresh fruits and vegetables, slowing down the ripening processes and the deterioration of vegetable products, extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

Currently, there are two mechanisms to insert these compounds on the packages: they can be introduced into the polymeric matrix (mass), or they can be applied as a coating (dispersion). In many cases, the incorporation method depends on the type of packaging to be used for packing products, and the capacity of the company to incorporate the scavenger into its products.

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