Packaging is very important for the safety of food products. As fish are a perishable food so their packaging plays a very important role to determine shelf life. It is the final barrier that protects the product against deterioration and provides a shelf life extension. The choice of correct packaging is as important as any other step in processing. This report is comprised of the use of different techniques like modified atmospheric packaging (MAP), intelligent packaging, and active packaging. The correct combinations of gasses for fatty and lean fish are also discussed in this report. This report shows that how only packaging can improve the shelf life of the products by more than 50%. The effect of major spoilage concern agents like enzymes, microbes, and chemical reactions is also discussed with examples. MAP application on fresh fish, fresh crustaceans, fresh molluscs, and smoked salmon describes different gas combinations. Packaging material with different barrier qualities and their appropriate use in fish products is included in this report. Every technique has some advantages and disadvantages. It is very important to work on disadvantages and work on them to be a part of the improvement in the field. The advantages and disadvantages of MAP are briefly discussed in this report.
Fish is a food that is medically proven best against many complications of the human body. This makes the demand for fish consumption high in every corner of the world. The demand for fresh fish products from consumer remains high always. The presence of protein, high moisture, and omega3 in fish ranks it as perishable food which is vulnerable to microbes, enzymes, and other physical reactions. All the preservation techniques somehow alter the quality and nutrition value of the product. To provide fresh and fresh-like products always requires packing the product according to its characteristics and it is also considered that how to make packaging alone a preservation technique to get rid of harmful preservation techniques. During fish processing quality assurance is made at every step that is why to assure that processing will remain good for the mentioned shelf-life period, proper packaging is very important. If the packaging is not up to the standards the benefits of processing also become difficult to get.
The main function of packaging in any food not only fish products is to avoid contamination and spoilage. But the other functions are
• Increase shelf life
• Help in marketing
• Consumer satisfaction
• Inform the customers about product
(Bykowski and Dutkiewicz, 1996).
Different materials and techniques are now introduced in fish packaging. MAP (Modified Atmospheric Packaging), microwave stable packaging, and antimicrobial packaging are the most advanced packaging techniques introduced in fish packaging. The selection of packaging is depending on the final requirements of the product. Like if we treated the product with salt and wants to make it canned then cans with vacuum packaging techniques will be applied. MAP is now being used on large scale due to its flexibility of adapting different conditions for different products (Noseda et al., 2014). The presence of hemoglobin and other compounds like carotenoids provide color to fish fillets. In the presence of oxygen by oxidation the color of fish can deteriorate but when fresh fish like tuna fillets packed in a high concentration of O2 packed with carbon monoxide to stabilize the red color of fillets. Carbon monoxide is very helpful in this phenomenon because it makes a complex with myoglobin and prevents it to convert into oxymyoglobin but now CO is banned in many countries. Another major problem of fish flesh is that it reduces its water holding capacity due to the presence of proteins and drip loss gets increases. This problem is also can be reduced by proper packaging as it occurs in the presence of CO2 when it acidified the muscles of fish. By adding salt in packaging or making package CO2 free this problem can be eradicated successfully (Noseda et al., 2014). Fish can carry many microbes most of them are aerobics. By making conditions according to the concern microbe in packaging it is easy to eliminate the hazard development chances. Environmental contamination is also a headache, but by proper packaging of the product, it remains protected against environmental contaminants. Due to the presence of high lipids, the chance of oxidation got an increase in fish products. It creates a bad odor and loss of high-value omega3 oil. Packaging without oxygen helps to keep lipids oxidation-free. This elimination of oxygen also provides protection from the oxidation of vitamins, flavor, and color.
Alongside the advantages of packaging as a preservation technique, it also helps economically to the industry and all the stakeholders. It prevents deformation of the product, is easy to open and close, is simple to use, and is simple for the microwave. The label on packaging provides information to the consumer like nutrition value, shelf life product traceability, and ingredients used in the product. So, keeping in view of all the above-mentioned factors choice of packaging technique according to product is very important because it can affect shelf life, sensory quality, marketing, transportation, and consumer satisfaction.
The most important packaging technique being used nowadays for lean and fatty fish products is MAP. But intelligent and active packaging is also very impressive in result regarding these products.
Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP)
MAP is a modern way of packaging. It is the name of altering the environment for the product in the package. The gasses used in this are CO2, O2, N2, and CO. MAP could increase the shelf life of the product by more than 50%, with retention of high quality. But it is only can be achieved by controlling the temperature because the higher temperature will decrease the solubility of gasses in the system. Also need to apply to high-quality products (Farber, 1990). Gasses play a very important role in MAP.
O2 helps to inhibit the growth of anaerobic bacteria although it also can stimulate aerobic growth. Its main function in fish flesh is the stabilization of oxymyoglobin, which provides bright red color to the product. The bright red color is the high demand of consumers (Farber, 1990). Generally, as fish is considered a high and best source of omega3 fatty acids and vulnerable to many aerobic bacteria that is why the concentration of O2 keeps low most of the time. When live species like shellfish are packed then it is compulsory to provide a supply of enough O2 to provide a long shelf of product. As O2 is very important for color it also requires maintaining the odor of the product. Oxygen is also very useful in the packaging of lean fish because the high level of O2 and CO2 helps to reduce the formation of trimethylamine and stabilize the sensory properties. Oxygen with CO2 also inhibits the growth of psychrotrophic microbes (Noseda et al., 2014).
CO2 is the most important to control in MAP and is used widely in every type of food. This gas has the ability to solubility in both water and fat phases. Its solubility always increases with a decrease in temperature, so it is used in frozen fish products. This gas act as a great inhibitor against bacteria if controlled conditions are provided to the product. The working of CO2 depends on its concentration, temperature, headspace gas, water activity, and type of product. But the most crucial is to maintain temperature as low as possible (Farber, 1990). Another notable gas is N2, with the inert gas status it is mostly used to avoid collapse of package. This gas is also color and odorless. Sometimes used in packages to provide inhibitory action against aerobic bacteria and oxidation factors. But this gas does not have an antimicrobial effect and does not become a cause of any chemical or biological reactions (Noseda et al., 2014).
Vacuum packaging is also applied in fish products. Vacuum packaging is the name of removing the maximum possible amount of gasses from a packaged product, with the help of a vacuum pump to get a vacuum state in the package (Leveau and Goussault, 2010). This type of packaging is specific in MAP. It is mostly applied in those products which may face the problem of oxidation and aerobic bacterial attacks. It is a very good method to use for fatty fish, but it can also produce trimethylamine in marine products (Noseda et al., 2014). Vacuum packaged products must bear pressure because due to creating a vacuum inside of the package the outer pressure increases on a product that is why it is not good for fragile product packaging. It is mostly used for processed, marinated products (Leveau and Goussault, 2010). Vacuum packaging not only increases the shelf life of the product it also helps to minimize the volume of the product, helps to attain transportation more easily. The inspection of air is very easy and can be done by visual inspection only.
MAP and Pathogens
Fish is more vulnerable to microbial and chemical spoilage as compared to other flesh products. The most important pathogens in fish are
• Listeria monocytogenes
• Clostridium botulinum
Listeria monocytogenes is the leading pathogen that almost contaminates all fish species. Its presence in fish is mainly due to initial contamination but it can also occur during the processing of products (Leroi, 2010). It causes illness when its vegetative cells are consumed. Its chance of illness cause is more in minimally processed products as compared to a fresh one. because the vegetative cells can be destroyed by the heating process and minimally processed fish products are not treated by heat before being eaten (Noseda et al., 2014). The growth of this pathogen is not stopped easily because it can grow in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. The addition of 100% CO2 has no significant effect on its inhibition, but it can slow down its growth. It can also be achieved by MAP with 50% CO2 and use of any bacteriocins and/or by addition of salt and low pH levels. It is reported that if MA is set with 75% CO2, 10%O2, 15% N2, and fish is treated with 1% acetic acid then the lag phase of this pathogen can be delayed up to 8 days (Sivertsvik et al., 2002). But only MA is not enough if the temperature of the product is not controlled throughout the supply chain.it is also a common concept that MAP performance increased high with a decrease in temperature. So, as additional protection, we needed to add preservatives and chemicals in the high-value fish products to avoid the growth chance of these pathogens then desired temperature below 3 °C does not remain a problem (Noseda et al., 2014).
This is an anaerobic pathogen, having the ability to increase count and toxin production even at low temperatures. This bacterium can be found in every fish-related area like estuarine, freshwater, etc. so that is why it is very critical regarding fish and fish products. It also can grow at low temperatures and can also produce toxins even at below 3 °C. Sometimes color and flavor of products remain good at low temperatures even if toxins are produced in the product (Sivertsvik et al., 2002). But it is reported in studies that low temperature increases the time of toxin production. As Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic microbe so first thing always comes to mind is to include 100% O2 in the package but this did not provide good results. When herring is treated with smoking and having clostridium spores packed with 100% O2 it shows the formation of toxin within 6-9 days (Noseda et al., 2014). It is also reported that the only use of high oxygen transmission rate packaging material or addition of O2 in the headspace is not enough to reduce or eliminate the chance of toxin production (Dufresne et al., 2000). It shows that the presence of O2 does not assure the safety of the product. On the other hand, the inclusion of 100% CO2 also does not grant the safety of the product and shows toxin production before the spoilage of the product. The safe combination of gasses to slow down toxin production is to make an equal ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Sivertsvik et al., 2002). A combination of 40% CO2 and 60% O2 shows effective results for tuna at refrigeration temperature. It is also good to stabilize the color and other microbial growths (Lopez-Galvez et al., 1995). The safety of the product also can be enhanced by the addition of extra barriers like the addition of brine, preservatives, a decrease of pH, and ozone treatment of the product (Gibson et al., 2000). Another point is the presence of fat in fish because lean fish require a longer time between quality deterioration and toxin production as compared to fatty fish (Reddy et al., 1999).
Table.1 Toxin and shelf-life Study of Different Fish Products Inoculated with C.botulinum.
Fish can also be contaminated with pathogens other than L.monocytogens and C.botulinum. MAP is applied to protect products from these pathogens which are Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Yersinia, Campylobacter, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Enterococcus. Kirove 1997 reported in a study that Plesiomonas shigelloides is totally inhibited by MAP.
MAP with 60:40:0 and 40:30:30 (CO2:N2:O2) and air packaging applied on cod fillets. It is noted that by application of this atmosphere the growth of microbes is inhabited as compared to air packaging. The same result was achieved when CO2:N2 was applied with 60:40 and 80:20 in the packaging of trout fillets. But the growth of Yersinia and Aeromonas was detected (Sivertsvik et al., 2002).
MAP and Sensory Quality
Fish is one of the best natural resources for many nutrients. The focus nutrients are protein, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. The presence of these nutrients can make changes in fish sensory qualities if chemical and biochemical reactions are not inhibited in the products, thus the sensory attributes of the product get deteriorate. The changes started just when fish dies and continue this process until getting spoiled. These changes are the result of reactions due to microbial activities, enzymatic reactions of fish, and oxidation of lipids. This deterioration of fish causes off-flavor and odor also produce colonies of microbes. Packaging with a mixture of gasses is more acceptable to retain the sensory characteristics of fish as compared to air packaging or vacuum packaging. When products are available in cut form, packed with 60% CO2 and 40% N2 have a longer shelf life and retention of good flavor and odor. One another combination of 40:60 of CO2 and N2 applied but have low acceptability than the first one but still better than vacuum and air packaging. Thus, many studies proved that fish packed in MAP retain an acceptable level of color and flavor as compared to air and vacuum packaging (Milijasevic et al., 2019).
Total volatile basic nitrogen acts as an indicator of freshness in fish products. These compounds are nitrogen, dimethylamine, trimethylamine, and other nitrogenous compounds. They become volatile when converted into their alkaline forms. The presence of TMAO in all marine species used for osmoregulation produces dimethylamine and trimethylamine. When aerobic conditions are provided to TMAO it starts to convert to trimethylamine which gives a spoil fish-like smell. It is reported by Babic et al. (2014) that the use of 60:40 of CO2 and N2 has a great effect on TVB- N formation in fish. This mixture slows down the rate of TVB-N formation. Other studies were also done with lower levels of CO2, but these combinations have fewer effects on the formation of these compounds. It is recommended to use storage temperature 1oC for best results. This is the condition for fish to retain TVB-N 25mg N/100g. The criteria of TVB-N are set by researchers. So, some researchers agreed to reject the fish if the TNB-N level is 25-35 mg N/100g. But European Commission in this field did not set any limit of TVB-N for the acceptability of common species (Milijasevic et al., 2019). The texture is also an important factor when considering fresh fish. The fish texture is depending on its water holding capacity. When fish products are packed in MAP with 40%, 60%, or 90% of CO2 its pH decrease and water holding capacity also decreased, this phenomenon makes the flesh exudate. But it increases the shelf life of the product also. To increase the water holding capacity brine solution is added with the product. Fish odor is also affected by the oxidation of fatty acids. Fish is packed according to fat and lean flesh ratio when to protect the product from oxidation. Lean fish are most of the time packed with oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. The chance of oxidation is minimum in this type of fish. But for fatty fish like trout and salmon, it is required to pack the product in a vacuum to protect it against oxidation. Sometimes if O2 is applied 10% and the product is stored at 2 °C then it also gives satisfactory results (Noseda et al., 2014).
Application of MAP on Fresh Fish
Fresh lean fish is packed with O2 to extend shelf life as it helps to inhibit the formation of TMA during storage. But for removal of microbial growth chance along with TMA formation combination of 40-60% CO2 and 10-50% O2 and rest is N2 is applied. In another research reported by Lopez-Caballero et al. (2002), found that CO2 in combination with 20–60% O2 provide significant retardation in the growth of microbes on fresh fish. Tilapia a lean fish shows 28 days more shelf life with great sensorial properties retention if packed with a combination of 75:0:25 (CO2:O2:N2) as compared to air packaging (Reddy et al., 1995). For fatty fish products, it is recommended to store them in O2 free environment to overcome the problem of oxidative rancidity.
Application of MAP on Fresh Crustaceans
Fresh crustaceans have a very little amount of fat, so it is considered a lean marine product. MAP for this species will the same as for lean fish. These are cooked and peeled before applying MAP. Noseda et al., (2012) stated after research that if 50%-50% concentrations of CO2 and O2 are provided to cooked and peeled shrimps, it will increase the shelf life of the product remarkably. At this concentration of gasses, the growth of microbes is inhibited, and all the metabolism reactions also become slow. This effect will reduce the chance of bad odor by controlling sulfur and amine denaturation (Noseda et al., 2012).
Application of MAP on Fresh Molluscs
The packaging of live molluscs is always a challenge. It is very difficult to maintain the quality with the low mortality rate in this species. It is reported after a study that if molluscs are packed with a rich O2 environment they can survive long with good end quality and less mortality rate. The best combination with a low mortality rate found is 0/90/10 (CO2, O2, N2) as compared to air and 0/0/100 (CO2, O2, N2). By changing the O2 concentration to 75%-85%, also shows a good end effect on low mortality rate and the slowdown of metabolism (Bernardez and Pastoriza, 2011).
Fig.1 Mortality rate comparison of different MAP conditions and air packaging (Noseda et al., 2014).
Application of MAP on Smoked Fish
Smoked products are packed with the elimination of oxygen from the package or under the vacuum. Both techniques MAP and vacuum provide great results in smoked fish packaging (Noseda et al., 2014).
Packaging Materials for MAP
The selection of proper packaging material is as important as needed to choose the correct combination of gasses to get good results of MAP and vacuum packaging. Packaging material should be a good barrier against gasses and water with the ability of good sealing properties. Therefore, multilayer packaging is used like
Among these combinations of materials, Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) provide good water barrier properties and the other ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) is good against gasses. Some other materials of considerations are polyamide (PA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as moderate gas barrier materials, these are frequently used for different types of seafood products. The ability of PA and EVOH as a barrier against gasses depends on the relative humidity (RH), if RH increases then the barrier property of these materials decreases. So, a coating of polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC) who has good water and gas barrier properties applied to the packaging materials to enhance their barrier properties (Noseda et al., 2014). Sometimes coating of aluminum is also deposited on the packaging layer which also increases the barrier properties. Aluminum can also be applied as a layer and it gives not only a good barrier against water and gas but also provide protection against UV and visible light (Robertson, 2006). Some materials are mixed with other compounds to make their barrier abilities as per requirements for the product.
Pros. and Cons.
MAP and all its types including vacuum sound good for shelf life and all concern factors of packaging fish and fish products. The main pros. of using this system are:
• Increased shelf life of the products (50-400%)
• Economically good
• High-quality products for long distribution
• Clear view of products enhances customer attraction
• Sealed packages provide protection against recontamination and drip loss
• No external odor
• Easy to separate the cuts
• Good to protect natural color flavor and taste
• Its machinery for a gas filling made it expensive
• The control of temperature is very necessary to protect gasses
• Need different combinations of gasses according to product
• Once the package is opened, the gasses leak and the MAP effect will be lost
• Fully trained staff required to handle this packaging
Skin packaging has the same mechanism as vacuum packaging. A heat-deformable film is used in this method. The film fold around the product and heat is applied. Film adjusts around the product and takes the shape of the product. This process is done by thermoforming sealing machines. Mostly done with deep-frozen products (Leveau and Goussault, 2010).
Active packaging is a type of packaging in which desired functions are added to protect against external contamination of the food products (Labuza, 1987). According to Hurme et al. (2002), active packaging is not only provided a barrier against external contamination it also provides safety and improves quality by adding different functions in it. in this paper, it is also stated that the main reasons for active packaging are the removal of bad components, specific ingredient addition, antimicrobial activity, and changing properties of the package. Active packaging is only applied where it does not affect the economy of the product. The main active technologies applied in active packaging are oxygen scavengers, carbon dioxide absorbents, moisture removals, and antimicrobial systems. O2 has known for being responsible for many degradation procedures in fish. Oxidation can be reduced by using a coating of different materials on the packaging materials. O2 scavengers are applied commercially in the form of the sachet, films for packing, and different types of closures by using different types of active ingredients like iron, enzymes, and dyes. These materials help to remove oxygen and reduce the chance of oxidation in the product (Sivertsvik 2003). Mostly on the commercial level, iron-based sachets is providing the best result as oxygen scavengers. They reduce the oxygen level in the headspace to less than 0.1%. today plastic that can react with oxygen is also introduced which acts as oxygen removal in packages (Brody et al., 2001; Rooney, 2002). Availability of moisture is a big concern of food spoilage. Moisture absorbents are mostly used for dry products mostly to maintain water out of the products. Desiccant material is used to control the humidity of the package in the form of a sachet. Larger bags or sheets are used for bulk quantity seafood transfer (Sivertsvik 2003).
Table.2 Active Packaging Systems Used in Fish and Other Foods (Gonçalves, 2012).
The application of active packaging as antimicrobial packaging is a very important innovation. It has more benefits as compared to O2 scavengers and moisture absorbents. In this technique, antimicrobial substances were added with packaging and they stopped the microbial activities. Different methods of applying antimicrobial packaging are:
• A sachet of antimicrobial substance is added during packaging of the product and it releases the substance during storage. No special packaging material is required for this type.
• The antimicrobial substance is added into the package directly by applying it to the packaging film. But its application on hot products requires special considerations.
• Sometimes packaging material coated with a substance that can allow passing the antimicrobial agents after heat treatments of products. In this way, the antimicrobial agent is not affected by heating and other shear forces. The antimicrobial agent got evaporated and went towards the headspace or migrate into the product by diffusion phenomenon.
• Bioactive edible coatings which are approved as food additives can also be used as antimicrobial packaging (Sivertsvik, 2003; Coma, 2008).
The activity of antimicrobial agents is different and specific for each microbe. Therefore, the choice of antimicrobial agent made according to the target microbe is important (Han, 2005).
Fig.2 Active and Intelligent Packaging Difference (Gonçalves, 2012).
Intelligent packaging informs the customer about the product. It is sometimes considered as the type of active packaging. These are the devices that provide information about the product and how it is functioning. It also provides assurance about the integrity of the package, temperature, and safety of the foodstuff. Three groups were made, on the basis of the application of these devices. The first one is external in which indicators are attached outside of the package like time-temperature indicators and shock indicators. Then the second one is internal indicators. They are placed at the headspace or attached to the lid. They used to provide information about O2 leakage, microbial indicators, and CO2 activity. The third and most important one is the availability of bar codes and other stuff like this which provide information to the consumer about the product like use by date and manufacturing date.
Table.3 Important Intelligent Packaging Techniques for Fish (Gonçalves, 2012)
People want easiness in every field of life due to the fast living styles. They prefer the things which save their time. The availability of quick information by intelligent packaging provides satisfaction to the customer but its application is still only commercialized in a few countries. European countries not accepting this due to the concern of fear shown by the customer about these techniques. Still, a lot of work is required to do and then customers will be satisfied with these special techniques (Gonçalves, 2012).
Fig.3 Intelligent Packaging Indicator (Gonçalves, 2012).
Temperature is an important parameter to control during storage. So, monitoring temperature through the supply chain is very important. Two types of temperature indicators were applied to the product. The simple one is called a temperature indicator and the other is a time-temperature indicator (Woolfe 2000). The temperature indicator shows a critical level of heating and cooling of the product. It gives information to customers about the possible growth of pathogens and protein denaturation in different storage temperatures. Time-temperature indicator tells about the changes in the shelf life of the product. It happens with the help of chemical, enzymatic, or microbial reactions. It is a very easy way to check the temperature effect of the product in the chill supply chain. These are simple, less expensive, easy to monitor and give the information from manufacturing to the consumption of the product. These indicators can be influenced by light, and humidity. So, for better results product should keep away from light and humidity during storage. The major drawback of the time-temperature indicator is that it only shows the surface temperature of the product. One indicator, work on the color principle shown in fig.2. It is made up of polymeric compounds and changes its color when expose to high temperatures. It consists of two rings of dark and light color schemes. The inner ring is made up of light color and when it gets high temperature its color starts to become dark like the outer ring. The information is written on the indicator at which color comparison products become unsafe for consumption. The other working mechanisms of color indicators used as time-temperature indicators are:
• Use liquid crystals coating to show the temperature of the product
• Wax containing indicators shows the temperature abuse. Wax melts when reached a certain level
• Combine time–temperature, a food has received after packaging
• Indicate the remaining shelf life
Sometimes Diacetylene is used as a coloring indicator having an outer ring of reference color. The diacetylene becomes darker as the temperature goes higher. Recently, a bar code is applied to the product. It is applied to the pack just before the product is released. It contains information about the product.
Fig.4. Time-Temperature Color Indicator (Gonçalves, 2012)
The barcode contains three types of sections and these sections have information about the product.
• First it gives information about the date of manufacturing, batch number
• It also shows time-temperature reactivity
• Contain time-temperature indication color
when it is scanned with the handheld computer it shows messages for customers about the quality of product like good, do not use or call QC (Gonçalves & Blaha 2010).
The use of these techniques will help to maintain MAP. It will be possible to check and monitor the product without the breakage of the packaging seal. It will not only monitor the product but will also provide information about the quality of the product (Restuccia et al., 2010). So many techniques of intelligent packaging when applied with MAP-it gives great result in fish packaging.
Packaging is the most important step that decides the further storage life of the fish and fish products. The use of different techniques is very important in fish packaging to make it safe both quality and nutrition-wise. The use of MAP was found very good to extend the shelf life of the product. But it is necessary to choose the correct combination of gasses according to the species and always make assurance about the hygienic production of the initial product. Always choose the highest quality fish for processing when applying MAP. The shelf-life extension also depends on the fat content, initial microbial load, and temperature of storage. High temperature reduces the solubility of CO2 and then the benefits of MAP in most of the products got to vanish. MAP is better to use for both lean and fatty fish with different gas compositions. The sustainability of MAP packaging can be improved by introducing active and intelligent packaging techniques. These techniques will make the fish more sustainable for food production. Research also goes in positive ways about packaging materials to make them sustainable, so their reuse or recycling rate becomes high. Nowadays the trend of light packaging getting popular. The use of lightweight but best barrier films for MAP is a challenging aspect. Now focus of the packaging research is to introduce materials that can replace plastic in the food chain and also can withstand all the possible techniques of packaging.
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Submit To: Turid Rustad & Jørgen Lerfal (Associate Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU, Norway)
Submit By: Muhammad Umar (Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU, Norway)
Student No: 110155
Course: BT3110-Aquatic Food Processing and Technology
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