Last month, readers of this column were introduced to WRAP, Britain’s Waste and Resources Action Programme. Now brace yourself for another acronym which may be heading your way: NAFISPACK (Natural Antimicrobials for Innovative and Safe Packaging). In a team comprising 17 partners from Scandinavia, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Germany, researchers will “develop food packaging and labeling materials that react to environmental factors.” In plain language this covers all the technologies that prolong shelf life of foods, and tell you when they are going bad or if they have been incorrectly shipped and stored.
For perishable goods such as meat and fish, the main concern of producers and retailers is to extend the shelf life of their products by preventing quality loss. Since industry and consumers have a huge interest in packaging solutions that keep fresh products at a good quality level, the NAFISPACK project partners are joining forces, under the umbrella of Spain’s ITENE (Instituto Tecnológico del Embalaje Transporte y Logística) to develop a new approach within the three year duration of the project. Improvements for facilitating better handling (e.g., making products easier to open and to reclose) will also be part of this project.
Food safety achieved by the use of packaging materials and coatings to combat growth of microorganisms in food is the first priority of this project. However it is noted that some materials used in the packaging process can have negative side effects. For example, it’s no use prolonging the freshness of packaged foods if your hair turns green when you eat them. The approach of NAFISPACK is designed to be all-embracing: Innovative package systems are supposed to guarantee safety and freshness of the product during the whole process from farm to fork.
NAFISPACK’s mission statement is couched in the kind of language which Europeans may soon be reading on their restaurant menus. An extract: “Antimicrobial packaging material will be combined with quality indicators reacting on metabolites. By this method, quality loss can be detected at an early stage. The same principle can be noticed with basic total volatile nitrogen compounds as indicators for spoilt seafood, or short-chained alcohols and oxidation products of fat that react to contaminated fish.”
Enjoy your meal.