Food Packaging: Wrappers help kill microbes

August 13, 2003
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+
Packaging systems are being designed to meet the food safety imperative.

Spray systems that apply ingredients are being adapted to deliver antimicrobials on trayed meat products. Source: AutoJet Technologies

Shouting “Recall!” in a ready-to-eat meat plant is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater: fear and panic is sure to follow. No segment of the food industry is more concerned about the potentially lethal effects of good product gone bad than these processsors.

As with dairy, the greatest potential for contamination is in the post processing, pre-packaging stage. While dairies have addressed that danger with sanitary filling systems, ready-to-eat meats still are experimenting with risk-lowering solutions.

One possibility that is generating potential for contamination is the RP-SSP flash pasteurization unit, a joint project of Alkar Corp. and RapidPak, two Lodi, Wis., firms under the umbrella of the Management and Facilitator Capital Fund. The group also includes Madison, Wis.-based Sani-Matic, specialists in CIP and other sanitation technology.

RapidPak makes 3-A certified horizontal thermoform/fill/seal packaging equipment used extensively by Oscar Mayer and other high-volume processors of hot dogs, lunchmeats and other ready-to-eat products. Alkar makes ovens, chillers and cook/chill units. For the last two years, Alkar has lent its pasteurization expertise to the development of a packaging machine that flash pasteurizes hot dogs milliseconds before the film is sealed. Alkar-RapidPak plans to exhibit the unit at Worldwide Food Expo this fall in Chicago.

“The key is delivering short bursts of pressurized steam without losing any line sped and in a very controlled situation,” explains David Wildes, Alkar’s marketing director. The unit, which can be retrofitted to RapidPak equipment, adds four to six feet to packing machines that already are 30 to 40 feet long, bu the post-packaging pasteurization tanks that many processors currently employ are eliminated, resulting in a net floor space savings.

USDA and an independent lab are still gathering bacterial kill data, but preliminary results are encouraging. A 4-Log bacterial reduction on an inoculated product was achieved in one test, Wildes reports. Temperature of the steam exceeds 212¿ F.

While the firms resolve final design issues on RP-SSP, processors are attacking the microbial issue with systems of their own design. One popular approach is a prepackaging antimicrobial spray. Great precision is required to deliver thorough coverage of the antimicrobial agent without coating the package tray. Rather than engineer such a system themselves, processors are beginning to turn to specialists such as AutoJet Technologies.

“We’ve made the components of these systems for over 30 years, and about two years ago companies started calling us and saying, ‘I want the whole kit and caboodle’ of a turnkey antimicrobial spray system,” says William Kohely, vice president with Wheaton, Ill.-based AutoJet. “You can piece together a system, but it isn’t going to work as well as one that has been engineered at once, working back from the spray nozzle.”

The application temperature of the antimicrobial agent, variability between batches, whether it is ascorbic acid or some other compound and other factors influence selection of the spray tip. High-speed electric guns and extremely low flow rates also factor into the design of spray systems that use proximity sensors and sophisticated algorithms to accurately spray within a tenth of an inch of edges of trays being conveyed at rates of up to 1,000 units a minute.

For more information:

William Kohley, AutoJet Technologies

630-665-5000 ext. 1218,

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Kevin Higgins, Senior Editor

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Plant of the Year 2014

Blue Diamond Growers was chosen as Food Engineering's 2014 Plant of the Year. The Sacramento-based company is the world’s largest producer of almonds and almond ingredients.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

FSMA Audit

What is the is most important step you have taken to become ready for a FSMA audit?
View Results Poll Archive

Food Engineering

FE September 2014

2014 September

The September 2014 issue of Food Engineering explores how lean manufacturing, quality improvements and increased automation helps processors meet rapidly changing demands. Also, read how robotics, advanced machine controls, software and OEE are just a few of the tools that can boost productivity on packaging lines.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +