Use of Optical Oxygen Sensors in Non-Destructively Determining the Levels of Oxygen Present in Combined Vacuum and Modified Atmosphere Packaged Pre-Cooked Convenience-Style Foods and the Use of Ethanol Emitters to Extend Product Shelf-Life
O 2 sensors were used to non-destructively monitor O 2 levels in commercially packed pre-cooked, convenience modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) foods. A substantial level of O 2 (>15%) was present in packs resulting in a shorter than expected shelf-life, where the primary spoilage mechanism was found to be mould. Various combinations of vacuum (0–0.6 MPa) and gas flush (0.02–0.03 MPa) (30% CO 2/70% N 2) settings were assessed as treatments that result in the desired shelf-life (28 days). This was achieved using the combined treatment of vacuum 0.35 MPa and gas flush 0.02 MPa which resulted in a reduction of 6%–9% O 2 in all three samples (battered sausages (BS), bacon slices (BA), and meat and potato pies (PP)). Reduced O 2 levels reflect the microbial quality of products, which has been successfully reduced. Duplicate samples of all product packs were produced using ethanol emitters (EE) to see if shelf-life could be further extended. Results showed a further improvement in shelf-life to 35 days. Sensory analysis showed that ethanol flavour and aroma was not perceived by panellists in two of the three products assessed. This study demonstrates how smart packaging technologies, both intelligent and active, can be used to assist in the modification of conventional packaging systems in order to enhance product quality and safety and through the extension of product shelf-life.
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