The idea of superstores as a one-stop shop for food and household items has gradually made them increasingly popular in the Nigerian culture. With more people, especially those in urban cities, embracing the ease and effectiveness these superstores accord, the days where buying fresh products (fruits, vegetables, meat, pap, fish etc) from a supermarket seemed like a forbidden thought, are somewhat behind us.
However, as this culture becomes increasingly popular, customers want to be assured that when they pick up a fresh product off the shelf or refrigerator in a store, they are getting commodities that are still fresh and consumable. Unfortunately, the adverse sensitivity of food, especially fresh products, to gases and other atmospheric factors such as carbon dioxide, light, moisture and oxygen leaves a burden on food suppliers to produce and package their products in a manner where the freshness of the product is not compromised. This challenge makes the use of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) an advisable method of preservation and packaging.
WHAT IS MAP?
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), is defined as “the alteration in the composition of gases in and around fresh products by respiration & transpiration when such commodities are sealed in plastic films.” In simple terms, it is when food products are sealed off with film or other preservative materials in other to control their exposure to adverse atmosphere. This technology was developed to ensure that packaged food products stay fresh, attractive and consumable for as long as possible.
MAP was first evaluated in the mid-to-late 1940’s in the slowing down process of Apple ripening. It revolves around the proven technological idea that modifying the atmospheric conditions inside the package of a food item through the careful selection of the material or film used as packaging barrier (seal), helps the preservation process by further ensuring that the modified conditions inside the package are maintained, thus, extending the post-production life of the commodity, especially for fresh products, without the addition of any additives.
The properties of the seal including the thickness help protect the item from light and moisture as well as modifying the O2 and HO2gases in controlled proportions. This slows down the process of oxidation and the growth of microbes such as yeast, mould and bacteria, thus naturally protecting the product from early spoilage.
BENEFITS OF MAP
Beyond naturally modifying the atmosphere conditions of food products, MAP also provides additional benefits for products which include:
- Improved Product Image
- Maintaining quality such as flavour, colour and fragrance.
- Reduced wastage
- Assuring safety from dirt especially during transportation and storage.
- Sterilization and protection for sensitive medical products
- Longer shelf life
The use of MAP as a preservation and packaging method for Bubez Pap is an excellent example of it providing multiple benefits for a product. Beyond the primary goal of naturally retaining the freshness and usability of its pap by modifying the atmospheric conditions inside the bowl, the thickness of its seal is also carefully selected to avoid spillage, maintain quality, reduce wastage, improve image and ensure the hygienic protection of the Pap especially during preservation, transportation and storage.
It is important to note that the gas composition used for different products’ packaging varies just as food varies. While some products require a lower level of O2 and higher level of HO2, others require a reverse setting. A good example is red meat requiring high O2 in their packaging to help maintain the red colour amongst other health properties. On the other hand, bread requires low oxygen to avoid mould. Hence, in using this procedure for packaging, the method of sealing and atmosphere modification must be understood and applied correctly in line with individual products.