The manufacturing of plastics and plastic products has come a long way in the food service industry. These food packages are essential to keep food from becoming contaminated or damaged during distribution, while keeping food fresh. The food industry uses a wide range of plastics, including cups, plates, bowls, kitchenware, packaging and bottles. There is an emphasis on increasing the uses of various recycled products, including plastic. Many agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are involved in collecting polymeric materials (usually food industry containers) and recycling these materials to create new food containers. The world demand for food containers is estimated to increase nearly 3.8 percent per year. This is over $115 billion in 2013 due to an increase in the global output of food and an influence towards fast foods to meet fast-paced lifestyles, with the highest gain being for plastic containers.
It is estimated that nearly half of the world’s supply of food goes to waste. One of the main reasons for such significant food loss is due to poor food storage methods. However, with the involvement of seal-tight plastic products, perishables such as fruits, vegetables, and meats, last much longer while still maintaining freshness. Foods can also be refrigerated or kept frozen in plastic containers safely using rubber or plastic locked-lids that keep oxygen from entering the container. This is especially important in food service industries where large amounts of perishable foods are being kept and served. Highly resistant plastics, including polystyrene and polypropylene have also been used to create refrigerator door panels and molding to help maximize usable space, keep the cold inside to maintain the freshness of foods, and repel stains and spills.
Availability of Fresh Food
Plastic products in the food industry have also played a beneficial role in the availability of fresh foods at a decent turn-around time. The emerging technologies related to plastics have made it possible to shelf stable food products and reduce preparation, cooking and baking, and clean-up time. The workload then decreases while the productivity increases. Studies have shown that these advancements in food and food preparation, many due to the increased use of plastics, provides significant savings in labor, a reduction in food waste and contamination, and a high customer satisfaction rate. Over 85% of waste is sent to landfills and dumps. However, plastics can be melted down and reused. This reduces a large amount of waste when these plastics are recycled and made into new plastic containers. This method also helps to reduce pollution, disposal costs, and environmental problems.
Concerns about Plastics and our Health
Currently there is a lot of concern about the chemicals contained in plastics and how our daily use of plastics, especially as food and beverage containers, could allow these chemicals to enter our bodies. Proper use of plastic containers and knowing the risks can help you to minimize your exposure. The following links will bring you to websites that share those concerns and provide you with more detailed information.
Customer demands for high quality and safe food products have led to modifications and innovative developments of plastic packaging materials and products. Color changing plastics have been incorporated into various food-packaging materials as a way to alert consumers about the conditions of the food inside. These plastics have the ability to identify products that are on the verge of spoilage or have lost their wholesomeness. Many food service industries have adopted plastic color-coded cutting boards to prevent cross contamination. They typically accept a coding system of six colors that represent a group of foods, such as cooked meats, uncooked meats, raw fish, dairy products, or raw vegetables. Employees are typically provided a laminated sheet that tells them which groups of foods belong to which colors to avoid food contamination.
The process of vacuum sealing not only saves money, but also keeps food fresh while greatly reducing the risk of microorganisms or bacteria from entering the preserved foods. Foods can be placed in plastic bags or containers before putting it through a machine to suck all of the air from the container to store in the refrigerator or freezer. Vacuumed sealed plastic products keep their flavor for a longer period of time, and are less likely to dry out the food. Unlike many other types of food packaging containers, vacuum-sealed foods have a low likeliness of obtaining freezer burn. Most food vacuum bags are designed using high-graded safe plastic materials.