Nanotechnology reduces need for preservatives
PlastiColors is addressing consumer demand for longer-life food products with its ground-breaking Plasti-Nano masterbatch.
Consumers are increasingly steering towards brands offering non-toxic, chemical-free alternatives to traditional food preservatives. Addressing this trend, food manufacturers have to overcome challenges such as infestations of fungi and bacteria that find perfect environments (organic debris, moisture and temperature) for proliferation.
In response, PlastiColors’ development team has partnered with a leading international nanotechnology specialist to create Plasti-Nano, a special antimicrobial silver masterbatch offering efficient, natural barrier protection.
‘There’s a definite demand for antimicrobials in the global plastics industry, but restrictions on chemicals are increasing, too,’ explains Heidi Richards, PlastiColors’ R&D manager. ‘Few antimicrobials that are safe for human contact are stable enough to survive the high process temperatures of thermoplastics. However, one exception is silver,’ she continues. ‘With Plasti-Nano silver masterbatch, we’re presenting food manufacturers with a natural and specific action against germs that’s non-toxic, environmentally-friendly, chemical-free and FDA approved for food packaging. It works on fungi and bacteria cells by inhibiting cell division (reproduction), breaking the cell wall (oxidative stress) and preventing the exchange of gases through the cell wall (respiration).’
In the last 50 years, man-made preservatives have been commonly applied to extend the shelf-life of food and cosmetics. Most popular are benzoates, nitrites, sulphites and sorbates, which kill and prevent moulds and yeast from growing on food. However, they may present consumer health issues.
‘Buying organic is becoming increasingly popular as consumers realise the adverse health effects of preservatives and processed foods. Unfortunately, this is usually at a premium price,’ adds Heidi. ‘By incorporating Plasti-Nano into packaging materials, the benefit of extended shelf-life is achieved without added cost to the consumer.’
Independent studies carried out by PlastiColors reveal that the kinetics of growth of microorganisms in Plasti-Nano packaging differ from untreated packaging.
‘Applied correctly, Plasti-Nano helps to improve food security and shelf life, which in turn offers logistical competitiveness,’ remarks Heidi.
Cost versus benefit
According to Heidi, Plasti-Nano’s long list of benefits more than compensates for the small add-on cost. These include:
• Reducing retailer food waste costs by increasing shelf life
• Reducing the need for and cost of preservatives
• Reducing odours caused by fungi and bacteria
• Preventing stains caused by microorganisms
• Offering greater protection for consumers
• Reducing the risk of contamination caused by bacteria
• Not modifying the final product
• Reducing the spread of disease and cost of cleaning products
• Fighting fungi and bacteria with an active surface treatment
Any environment where there’s a need for the control of bacteria and fungi has a potential application, including all forms of food packaging, beverage bottles and caps and baby products.
Does Plasti-Nano really work?
PlastiColors commissioned two independent laboratories to conduct biological tests on Plasti-Nano. Both showed between 75% and 99% reduction of microbial growth, at a 5% dosage level in film.
Plasti-Nano was also compared to Nano-silver masterbatch samples produced with older technology, revealing an improved action of up to 30%.
‘The antimicrobial technology in Plasti-Nano is the most widely-accepted in many countries, maintaining the same efficiency and effectiveness over a long period of time when incorporated into packaging,’ asserts Heidi. ‘Its action renders contact surfaces and produce permanently free from invisible everyday threats. Furthermore, migration studies from an international FDA-approved laboratory show that Plasti-Nano doesn’t migrate from the active surface, proving its safety and efficacy,’ she continues.
Upholding physical properties
Packaging colour, transparency and mechanical strength and physiochemical properties are also maintained with Plasti-Nano, and its versatility allows unlimited applications. It can be incorporated into a range of polymers including PE, EVA and PVC and supports temperatures above 600°C.
‘By labelling packaging containing Plasti-Nano, food manufacturers can differentiate their brands on-shelf. With its undisputed benefits, this ground-breaking silver technology really is the future of packaging,’ Heidi concludes.