By Oliver Stauffer
Products using Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) are at a higher risk if the package barrier is breached due to the sensitive nature of the product. Most MAP applications use Nitrogen flushing, and testing package quality involves sampling package gas content days after the product has been packaged. A MAP package may have a shelf life beyond two years, but test methods that are often used to challenge MAP package integrity are not sensitive enough and are impractical.
Sensitivity of a test method is important for a variety of reasons, and most importantly serves to assure the quality of the product. Protein based powders are under modified atmosphere to prevent spoilage and to maintain the nutritional purpose of the product over the products shelf life. Products with oils and fats risk becoming rancid. Oxygen and moisture ingress into the package will rapidly degrade the product prior to use, changing flavor, texture, and ultimately turning any valuable product into a liability.
Oxygen ingress will occur in the presence of small leaks, and the level and impact of ingress is dependent on a variety of factors. For smaller package formats, leaks as small as 10 microns will have a near-term effect on product. Current conventional test methods fall far short from detecting such defects, and leave manufacturing operations exposed to debilitating quality deviations. Applying methods that offer higher sensitivity is not simply about finding smaller leaks, but is about offering the highest level of quality assurance.