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High oxygen barrier for colour stabilisation of fresh meat slices


Key words oxygen barrier, colour stability, fresh meat
Latest version 2012/03/23
Completed by FRIP

How does it work?

Primary objective To package meat slices in packages with oxygen barriers to stabilize red color.
Working principle The basic principle of the technology is to use a high oxygen barrier film for group packaging of individually sliced fresh meat packages. This high oxygen barrier protects the individually packed slices against oxidation. Individual packages are made from low oxygen barrier. In supermarket, service unpack small packages from the barrier packages and places the individual packages into the chilled display cabinet where oxidation of meat can occur due to the low barrier of the individual packages. The change of position from the high barrier to low barrier changes the meat color from dark red into fresh red.

Colour stabilization of meat can be reached in many ways, such as [1] include vacuum, modified atmosphere, high oxygen content, low oxygen, very low oxygen, peelable-lid/rebloom, vacuum-skin semi-rigid package, solid trays, other rebloom, barrier expanded polystyrene, and master/mother pack. The most widely used technique for meat packaging is modified-atmosphere packaging that is employed at high oxygen content. Barrier expanded polyethylene containing ethylene vinyl alcohol is used as tray material which helps the expansion of the shelf life of the packaged meat. Modified atmosphere packaging involves removal and/or replacement of the atmosphere surrounding the product before sealing in vapor-barrier materials. While technically different, many forms of MAP are also case-ready packaging, where meat is cut and packaged at a centralized location for transport to and display at a retail store. Aluminium foils are used which have high resistance against oxidation with other materials such as polypropylene, PET and other materials such as cast polypropylene (CPP); polyethylene terephthalate (PET)/silicon oxide-coated nylon/CPP (SIOX); Aluminum oxide-coated PET/nylon/CPP (ALOX); PET/aluminum foil/CPP (FOIL). Naturally renewable biopolymers can be used as barrier coatings on paper packaging materials. These biopolymer coatings may retard unwanted moisture transfer
in food products, are good oxygen and oil barriers, are biodegradable, and have potential to replace current synthetic paper and paperboard coatings. Packaging films can also be produced by using whey protein isolate (WPI) with antimicrobial activity. Such edible films have good mechanical properties and are excellent oxygen, lipid and aroma barriers. Oxygen barrier films can be produced with carvacrol, the main constituent of oregano oil [2]. Carvacol is stable and has antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli O157:H7. Flexible multilayer plastic films may be used for the thermoforming of packages for meat products. The packages must meet the technical requirements of medium or high barrier to oxygen, depending on the characteristics of the food product, in order to avoid contamination during its shelf-life and consequently risk to human health. Basically, the materials most used are coextruded films or a combination of coextruded and laminated (top film) structures. Polyamides, EVOH and PET-PVDC are used to provide an oxygen barrier. The changes on the total and nitrous meat pigments influence the color of the product, which is detected by the consumer, and thus directly influences the consumption of this kind of product. Light intensity, oxygen and temperature affect the amount of total and nitrous meat pigments and on the red color of meat slices.

Different packaging materials influence bacterial growth, off-odor, pH and color of meat products. Package material with the high oxygen transmission rate (OTR) can involve problems with large bacterial growth and the high degree of off-odor [3]. Products can be vacuum-skin packaged in films differing in oxygen transmission rate (OTR). Higher OTR films maintain surface redness better than oxygen barrier film.

Paper [4] provided results of the oxidation of red turkey meat as packed in low-barrier and in high-barrier plastic trays, and cans as controls, using added β-carotene as the indicator.

Additional effects Production of off-flavor, shelf life prolongation, growth of non-specific microbiology under high oxygen barrier films. Edible films created on packaging materials have the excellent lipid and aroma barriers. These coatings can potentially be used as carriers of antimicrobial agents, aim to extend food product shelf-life.
Important process parameters Permeation of the oxygen by the barrier film, storage temperature of the packed meat slices.
Important product parameters Combination of gases in the inner atmosphere in packed product, pH, permeation of light.

What can it be used for?

Products Fresh sliced meat pieces ready for home processing.
Operations Packaging
Solutions for short comings Prolonging the stability of color of freshly sliced meat pieces, limiting of surface oxidation, limiting the growth of not desired microorganisms.

What can it NOT be used for?

Products Low oxygen barrier films for group packing fresh sliced meat pieces, high oxygen content in inner atmosphere of the packaging.
Operations Long time of the retail of low oxygen barrier packaging that can cause high oxidation of the sliced meat surface layers, off-flavors and growth of microbial counts over the limits.
Other limitations Storage temperature around 5°C should be kept; no temperature increase is acceptable for fresh sliced meat pieces.
Risks or hazards Growth of unexpected rates of microbial counts in not well protected packaging against oxidation.


Maturity High oxygen barrier films are available and combinations with low barrier film applied for specific sliced meat packaging are already in commercial supermarkets.
Modularity /Implementation The technology is based mainly on using convenient films with barrier properties and mixing of the inner atmosphere in packaging. Combination of protective group packaging of individually packed slices is not a big practical problem and depends only on retail rate of the freshly sliced meat pieces.
Consumer aspects Consumers are satisfied with longer shelf life, protection against oxidation, off-flavor limitations.
Legal aspects Regulation of food production and packaging.
Environmental aspects Films with high oxygen barrier are stable against biodegradation. The biodegradation should be designed during design of the films composition.

Further Information

Institutes ETH Zurich, Tecnología de Productos Pesqueros, Agricultural University of Norway, ENSAIA, ALITEC, UNINA - DMA, University College Cork - FNS, University College Dublin, AINIA
Companies Teagasc
References [1] Anonymous, Case-ready packaging for red meat, (2007) Food Technology, 61 (3), pp. 70-72.

[2] Du, W.-X., Olsen, C.W., Avena-Bustillos, R.J., McHugh, T.H., Levin, C.E., Friedman, M., Storage stability and antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli O157:H7 of carvacrol in edible apple films made by two different casting methods, (2008) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56 (9), pp. 3082-3088.

[3] Pettersen, M.K., Nissen, H., Eie, T., Nilsson, A., Effect of packaging materials and storage conditions on bacterial growth, off-odour, pH and colour in chicken breast fillets, (2004) Packaging Technology and Science, 17 (3), pp. 165-174.

[4] Kebede, E., Mannheim, C.H., Miltz, J., Prediction of extent of oxygen uptake by Turkey meat model product in plastic trays using added β-carotene as an indicator, (1998) LWT - Food Science and Technology, 31 (7-8), pp. 617-623.

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Created by Milan123 on 5 April 2012, at 14:23