Advances in Dairy Packaging
At present Indian dairy plants are processing about 21% of its total raw milk production which in comparison with USA is quite low which processes 65% of its milk. Packaging helps in reducing the wastage of food in post harvest phase, improves the value of raw produce and provides safety net to farmers against the market swing of food prices. At present, efforts are being made to use anti-oxidative, biopolymer based and nano-composite materials in food packaging.
The Maharashtra Government has once again put pressure on the plastic manufacturers and milk packaging plants to make suitable arrangements to buyback the used polythene pouches from the milk consumers to address the environmental issue
According to an authentic estimate, about five crore liters capacity is being packed per day amounting to about 10 cores pouches per day. Shri Kuldeep Sharma Dairy Guru has calculated that the total surface area covered by 10 crore pouches per day will be equivalent to 1752 sq. kilo meter which is more than the total area of Delhi and Kolkata put together. If these 10 crore pouches were to be weighed some 250 metric tonnes of plastic is used per day. Indian dairies packaging waste is a major issue in retailing.
No matter how big role packaging plays in total carbon foot print, dairy industry must develop a system to collect and recycle the used plastic pouches for a meaningful purpose and to develop appropriate ecofriendly packaging for in milk and milk products.
Besides, environmental hazards, micro-plastics are carcinogenic and animals often mistake them for food. No wonder, therefore, in June this year Maharashtra became the first state in India to ban the manufacturing, sale and use of all throw away plastic items in daily use.
Like-wise, Seattle became the first US city to ban single use plastic straw and utensils. A leading online journal Science Advances estimates that more than 8.3 billion plastic straws are polluting the beaches around the world.
Stainless Steel straw and bamboo straws can be used multiple time after sanitization (70-80 times). These will serve as an alternative to plastic straws. Paper straw and compostable straw made from plant based polylactic acid of those made from plant husk and sugar cane bagasse can be a good source in place of plastic straws.
At present Indian dairy plants are processing about 21% of its total raw milk production which in comparison with USA is quite low which processes 65% of its milk. Packaging is expected to grow with increasing investments in dairy business through joint ventures, foreign collaborations, industrial licensing and establishment of 100% export oriented units.
Packaging helps in reducing the wastage of food in post harvest phase, improves the value of raw produce and provides safety net to farmers against the market swing of food prices. Packaging is a purchase influencer and communicator and helps in promoting food exports and supply chain management.
Besides many primary functions packaging plays are secondary functions like traceability (in case of food safety issues), tempering, portion controlling, transport stability and competitive market in growing retail sector.
India has come a long way through its old and primitive packaging materials such as plant leaf, paper, pottery shells, gourd, wooden boxes and baskets to recent packaging materials like metal tin, glass, plastic laminated paper, aluminum foil and ceramics.
At present, efforts are being made to use antioxidative, biopolymer based and nano-composite materials in food packaging. Oven-able, microwave packaging, aseptic packaging, vacuum packaging modified atmosphere packaging (by removing oxygen and filling with nitrogen, carbon monoxide argon and hilicum) and active packaging for extending shelf-life. Use of oxygen scavengers ferrous oxides, Ascorbic acid, sulfites, catechol selected nylons, photo sensitive dyes unsaturated hydro carbons and glucose oxidase enzyme are finding major opportunities in new innovations.
Additionally, edible packaging from casein and starch are not only cost effective but also becoming very popular and least hazards. Also incorporated in packages are KMn04 based scavengers in sachets immobilized in an inert substrate such as alumina silica gel.
Smart packaging is also finding significant place in today’s world of packaging. Electronic tongue using embedded nanosensors indicate colour changes during spoilage of food articles by indicating internal conditions of humidity and temperature with the help of electronic nose. Nano sensors monitor the quality of food at various stages of food handling.
A 3M monitor mark has two versions one intended for monitoring expired products and the other intended for consumer information Sensor based prediction of actual expiry date of dairy products during storage will help develop a cloud based smart phone APP for evaluation and analysis of data to reduce dairy waste.
There are many other interesting developments in packaging. Nano particles are embedded or coated on packaging films to provide protection against food borne pathogens (e.g. copper, nano-particles in the poly-lactic acid for fresh product packaging). Other metal oxide nano-particle of magnesium, titanium and zinc are also proposed for accelerated antimicrobial properties as they induce oxidative stress that leads to degradation of cell membranes and ions released cause bacterial death. Nano laminates (2 or 3 layers of nano sized material) provide lipid and gas barrier properties.
Nano composites improve strength, flexibility, stability and provide resistance from heat and ultra violet radiations and do not allow the release of volatile compounds.
While making all out efforts to develop the new packaging materials, we must ensure that no food contact material shall on danger the human health, food contact materials shall not change the composition of foods will retain their taste, flavour and texture and food package shall be manufactured in accordance with the good manufacturing practices.
The FSSAI regulations on food packaging and labeling must be complied with in regard to information to consumers, nutritional labeling expiry dates, ingredients added to food and also the instructions for storage and usages of food articles.
The readers of this issue of Indian Dairyman will find few interesting articles on latest innovations in dairy food packaging and waste management.
I wish you a joyous “Christmas” and very healthy and prosperous New Year!