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Lab tests materials

1st April 2013


The European Union has recently opened a laboratory, based at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, designed to test food contact materials.

For food processors, the centre will serve as a resource they can refer to when uncertain about the safety of specific packaging chemicals, such as those used in inks or for making the material.

EU legislation requires that all materials that come into contact with food comply with health standards so that safe food remains safe.

Janez Potocnik, EU science and research commissioner, says the new reference laboratory will set standards for testing practices for food contact materials across the EU. It will also serve as a point of reference for issues relating to the enforcement of legislation on food contact materials. This will be achieved through a network of national reference laboratories set up by each member country.

JRC will develop methods, reference substances, and training procedures to ensure consistent testing practices are done nationally to ensure the best possible implementation of EU legislation.

Articles that come into contact with food also include kitchen appliances, cutlery and crockery used industrially. Potocnik says: “There are of course a wide variety of types of food that are packed, processed and in some cases heated in these materials. The safety of the food therefore requires on adequate standards throughout the industrial chain, including producers of chemicals and materials, converters, packers and the food and catering industry.”

Some specific examples include studies on the release of substances from materials used to coat food cans. The studies led to a change in legislation after levels were shown to be too high.

Another study on the safety aspects of recycled food contact materials led to guidelines for the safe recycling of materials.

Public and regulatory scrutiny became focused on packaging chemicals last November after Italy’s regulators confiscated millions of litres of Nestlé baby milk due to the discovery that a printing chemical from a Tetra Pak package had migrated into the product.

Nestlé subsequently was forced by court order in Italy to make a recall of about two million litres of its Nidina and Latte Mio brands, even thought the EU’s food agency found at the chemical posed no danger to human health at the levels found in the products.

The recall was extended to France, Spain and Portugal. Dutch group Numico was also involved in recalling some of its products. The crisis subsequently exposed a loophole in food law, as there was no EU-wide regulation setting limits on benign contact materials.

A first for degradable

Cascades has launched Bioxo, which it says is the first product line of containers made from totally oxo-degradable polystyrene foam. A distinctive label appears on all products to inform consumers that they are using a container that contributes to environmental protection.

Bioxo containers are specifically designed to degrade within three years, unlike traditional polystyrene foam containers which require several hundred years to degrade. This means they will take up considerably less space in landfill sites.

The material is based on the addition of TDPA (Totally Degradable Plastic Additives) to the polystyrene. Mixed with the base resin, the TDPA additive gives the material special degradation properties without compromising the performance of the packaging products.

After use, when the product is discarded in a landfill site, it begins to undergo oxidative degradation much faster than traditional plastic products. Oxygen, together with heat, UV radiation or mechanical stress transforms the polystyrene foam with its TDPA additive into a fine powder, which bacteria and other microorganisms can digest.

The new range adds to the several hundred million food containers that Cascades produces every year.

Simpler filling

The Innofill DRV bottle filler from KHS features a simpler design than previous models. It has been especially developed for the filling of soft drinks in PET bottles from 0.1l to 5l, in all bottle sizes and shapes. Its maximum filling capacity is 80000 bottles/hr.

It operates with only two pneumatic cylinders per filling valve and they control the entire filling process, including lifting the bottle and sealing the bottle mouth against the filling valve. This configuration is made possible by transmitting the filling pressure to the neck ring holder by means of an expansion bellows designed according to aseptic specifications. This means that the force of the counter-pressure is also used to press the PET bottle against the filling valve.

The design eliminates the necessity for the bottle lifting elements required in conventional filling systems. Spring force is used for pressureless filling of non-carbonated beverages to press the bottle against the valve.

The Innofill DRV relies principally on the volumetric filling method of electromagnetic induction flowmetering (EIF) and the tried and tested system of guiding the product flow over a swirler. This technique removes the need for spreading elements protruding into the bottle while ensuring a high level of flexibility in filling a wide variety of bottle shapes and sizes without any changeover. Aseptic membrane and sealing technology is standard for the range.

The new Invertibles packaging from Reynolds is high in performance and versatility. The plastic, two piece container can be used as either a bowl with flat lid, or a plate with dome lid. Invertibles containers can be used for a variety of take-out and dine-in restaurant applications.

In the supermarket, these containers can be used in bakery, deli, produce, and for in-store café dining. The unique faceted design creates display appeal while promoting impulse sales. The full perimeter closure offers leak resistance, and is also easy to open and close with tabs on two sides. Made from crystal clear PET, these containers provide superior performance in refrigerated and room temperatures. Invertibles are available in 24oz and 48oz sizes in convenient combo packs of 100 clear lids and clear bases or in bulk.

The company says today’s retailers are looking for packaging that satisfies the consumer, while meeting their own needs for stock reduction, case and space management, cost effectiveness, display appeal, and bottom line worthiness. The new range addresses all these needs in an innovative way.

Reynolds Food Packaging offers a full line of stock and custom products for the foodservice, supermarket, processor markets, and agricultural markets.

Microwavable aluminium

Conclusive evidence that aluminium foil trays can be used safely in microwave ovens has been established by a study from the Fraunhofer Institute in Freising, Germany.

Conducted on behalf of the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) with the support of the US Aluminium Foil Container Manufacturers Association (AFCMA), the study concluded: “Microwave heating of food packaged in aluminium foil trays or in plastic containers with aluminium foil or laminated lids is perfectly viable.”

The results dispel the myth that aluminium foil containers are unsafe for use in microwave ovens and prove that consumer fears about using aluminium foil trays in the microwave are unfounded.

This news will help Nicholl Food Packaging and the launch of its two new aluminium foil trays that have been developed in conjunction with major retailers Tesco and Sainsbury’s. These have been designed for the convenience of both food packer and end-user.

Nicholl is a regular winner of awards from EAFA for its new products. These include a range of trays designed to replace top lidded plastic trays used with cuts of raw meat and poultry, without requiring the food packers to invest in new and costly heat seal tooling. The trays also provide consumer benefits such as minimising the handling of raw meat or poultry and the convenient choice of placing the full pack under the grill, in the conventional oven, in the microwave oven or even straight onto the BBQ. Additionally, as a disposable tray, the consumer does not have the task of cleaning the tray after use.

The new ridged-based smoothwall tray was designed to provide maximum cooking convenience for the consumer and provides a sturdy roasting or grilling vessel that can be used for pre-packaged raw meat, poultry or fish. The unique ridged based design of the tray lifts products off the base, providing a healthy cooking option for those consumers wishing to reduce fat content in the food they eat.

Its Dimpled Base Tray features a unique design to hold blood and juices from meat through surface tension, negating the need for absorbent pads in the base of the tray. The revolutionary dimpled base not only acts as a liquid trap, but also allows air to circulate around the base of the product, which creates an all-over roasting process.

On the materials front, GlaxoSmithkline says it is moving away from using PVC shrinksleeves on its beverage bottles because the sleeve material is stopping the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the pack from being recycled. Because PVC burns at PET’s processing temperature, the resulting rPET will be rendered useless.

Keith Marriage, director of packaging development, nutritional healthcare, says: “We’ve been working hard to find a solution and we believe we've found a shrinksleeve solution using multilayer polyolefins.”





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