Plastic Packaging Major Contributor to Integrity of Food Supply
As consumers in a developed nation, we tend to take many things for granted that are still a struggle for less developed areas of the world. Food packaging is a case in point and a perfect example of how our expectations for the integrity of our food supply has driven improvements and innovation in the packaging industry.
Packaging in the Olden Days
Older people would remember that, as children, they were sent to the corner shop to buy sugar and salt. They would return home with it in brown paper bags that had been repackaged by the shop owner from large hessian sacks. At the time, nobody thought this was unhygienic, but as the years progressed, authorities realised that there had to be better control over the quality and freshness of all our food.
This is when plastic packaging began to take prominence over other methods. When correctly applied and sealed there is no question that the food it protects is safe from contamination. Plastic is convenient, extremely light to transport, versatile and suitable for freezing or normal shelf storage. When made into plastic bags it has the added attraction of being resealable in some forms, or it can simply be tied at the top to secure the contents until they are ready for use.
Dairy Products Keep Fresh and Safe in Plastic Packaging
Protective plastic packaging is the preferred method of transporting and storing a great many food products. Dairy foods are one example of how improvements in packaging technology have expanded the range of dairy products available, and kept them in perfect condition until opened by the consumer.
Cheese, for example, was once sold in blocks and wrapped in cheesecloth, a loose fibred material that allowed the cheese to breathe but also allowed in contaminants. Now, block cheese is packaged in plastic and plastic; resealable bags have given us the luxury of grated cheese, which would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Yoghurt, cream cheese and thickened cream can be purchased in plastic containers with resealable, plastic lids.
Ice cream is another dairy product that comes to the consumer in many flavours, safely sealed in plastic tubs, from supermarket freezer to home freezer, unopened and uncontaminated. Before plastic, ice cream was made in blocks and packaged in a type of soft cardboard. This was hygienic; however, on a hot summer day, it quickly melted between the shop freezer and home. Plastic tubs, once frozen, stay solid long enough for the ice cream to get into the home freezer.
These kinds of innovations changed not only the packaging, but also our shopping habits and the types of foods we buy. We now have much more variety and choices as consumers, the food is still fresh when we buy it, despite it being transported long distances, and the packaging costs have reduced. Plastic bags are just one of the modern conveniences we enjoy.