As the packaging sector calls for the EU to recognise its importance during the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli specialist StePac believes its MAP solutions can help alleviate concerns over food contamination and security.
On 20 March the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) called on the European Commission to recognise packaging as an essential component in maintaining the uninterrupted flow of perishable food.
While governments are coordinating measures to ensure the continuous movement of fresh produce between countries, border restrictions and workforce shortages have induced considerable delays in cargo flows, rendering perishables particularly vulnerable to spoilage and waste.
Packaging companies such as StePac say their Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) solutions can play an important role since they delay ripening and ageing processes, inhibit microbial decay and help preserve the quality and nutritional value of fresh produce.
The packaging is extensively used for the prolonged storage and long-haul shipments of a range of fruits and vegetables.
“We are continuously hearing reports of vessels not being unloaded on time, and containers left sitting for long periods at harbours,” said StePac’s business development manager Gary Ward.
“Fresh produce exporters and importers are concerned that by the time their produce reaches the customer, the quality will have deteriorated considerably, impacting its value and increasing waste.
“Our unique packaging products can extend the shelf life of fresh produce by 50-100 per cent offering a lifeline for all stakeholders in the fresh produce supply chain and helping weather the logistical storms.”
Another major concern at the moment are the contamination risks involved in handling food, and consumers are increasingly looking for packaged rather than loose fresh produce.
"StePac’s Xgo brand of retail packaging formats are hermetically sealed,” said Ward. “They not only preserve the quality of the produce and extend shelf life, but also act as a physical barrier that prevents contact of the produce by the human hand from the moment it is packed until it is opened by the consumer.
“Consequently, once packed, the risk of produce being contaminated during the supply chain is effectively eliminated. Such assurance is not guaranteed when fruits and vegetables are sold loose or housed in packaging with punch holes or perforations.”
He adds that perishable fruits and vegetables, characterised by a relatively short shelf life, therefore gain an extended life span – a particular benefit in times of possible shortages and consumer stockpiling.