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Food Containers Buying Guide

Food Container Packaging

To preserve, transport and store miscellaneous food items, manufacturers fabricate a variety of containers. Typically, food packaging includes a wide array of materials, such as plastic, metals glass and paper, which are processed and formed. Some containers, such as plastics, are categorized as rigid or flexible. Containers may be processed with additional treatments for preservation purposes.

Container Types and Materials

Glass containers are fabricated by an automated process involving intricate heating and molding techniques. They are suitable for microwave heating and are a standard container choice because edible grade models do not contain/transmit dangerous chemicals to foods and may be reused. For dry food storage, manufacturers may recommend using (non-edible) desiccant packages to preserve freshness. Glass is also commonly used for liquid containers, as it is transparent and displays content. Additionally, glass jars are often a suitable choice for refrigeration purposes and are also suitable for microwave heating. Glass containers also effectively prevent odors and moisture build-up. Depending on the container shape or application, glass containers may be suitable for stacking and long term storage purposes. For a description of how glass bottles are fabricated, consult “How Glass Bottles Are Made”: http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/materials-handling/glass-bottles-made.

Metal,specifically stainless steel,is a common material used for larger food processing units, such as aseptic tanks and cubic containers. Metal is suitable for protecting food contents, as it is commonly fabricated to be tamperproof in its container form. Large metal containers, called drums, are typically used for the storage of oils and liquids in the industrial food sector. Aluminum is commonly used for tray containers and is efficient for aroma and moisture prevention. In some instances, metal containers, such as cans, are treated with protective enamels and nitrogen to ensure long term storage purposes. Some cubic containers may also be equipped with galvanized frames.

Plastic Containers are a standard choice for air tight food storage, and they are commonly used for multiple, smaller storage purposes. These types of containers are ideal for multiple uses, though recycled plastic is not recommended for food processes to avoid the transmission of contaminants. Plastic containers are efficient for both liquid and dry food. They are fabricated in lightweight forms and are produced in both rigid and semi-rigid formations. While rigid containers retain their shape and can hold a variety of solid formed foods, semi-rigid formations are typically suited for dry materials and some liquid foods.

There are numerous variants of plastic, but edible grade containers fall under three specific variants: polyethylene, polyester and polypropylene. Polyethylene, specifically, is more flexible than polypropylene and is used for standard bucket storage purposes. Various polyethylene containers may have HDPE stamped on the exterior. In addition to producing containers, polyester is also fabricated as film strips and is used for container labels.

For information about plastic packaging, see “Plastic Bottle Manufacturing”: http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/materials-handling/plastic-bottle-manufacturing

Paper containers are commonly used to transport food, and are capable of retaining both cold and hot foods. They are also typically designed to be leak proof. They are suitable for recycling purposes because of their biodegradable and compostable properties; they are commonly composed of cellulose paper fibers. For business purposes (ie, take out cartons), paper cartons are printed with a nontoxic FDA approved inks to create designs.

Additional Considerations:

All materials used for food transport or storage must be edible grade variety, so it is essential to consult manufacturers before storing food. Packaging should never have adverse effect on contents. Refer to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any container specific processing safety standards for the aforementioned materials: http://www.fda.gov/iceci/inspections/inspectionguides/ucm074946.htm


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