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Design & Technology

Food packaging and labelling

Packaging materials

Plastics

Plastics are widely used in food packaging because they are:

  • versatile - plastics can be flexible or rigid, and can be moulded into shapes.
  • resistant to acids and other chemicals
  • easy to print on
  • lightweight
  • cheap to produce

(Note: not all plastics have all the above qualities.)

Modified-Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Air in a plastic container can be modified to prolong shelf life and slow down colour deterioration.

MAP is used to package:

  • cold meats
  • smoked fish
  • cheeses
  • salads
  • fresh pasta

Other packaging materials

Paper, card, metal and glass can also be used for packaging.

Advantages, disadvantages and uses of different types of materials.

MaterialAdvantagesDisadvantagesUses
Glass
  • - reusable
  • - heat-resistant
  • - recyclable
  • - keeps shape
  • - low cost
  • - fragile
  • - safety issues
  • - heavy
  • - baby foods
  • - salad cream
  • - pickles
Metal
  • - recyclable
  • - lightweight
  • - impermeable
  • - withstands heat processing
  • - may react with food
  • - soup cans
  • - take-away containers
  • - bottle tops
Card/paper
  • - easy to print on
  • - cheap to produce
  • - biodegradable
  • - recyclable
  • - can be moulded
  • - can be coated
  • - lightweight
  • - not water-resistant
  • - easily damaged
  • - fruit-juice cartons
  • - egg boxes

Back to Food technology index

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