With prepared foods, the rate of deterioration depends on the ingredients and varies considerably from one product to another.Take meat based ravioli or lasagne, for example. The meat spoils at a different rate than the pasta.
One of the major challenges associated with prepared foods is how to avoid introducing microbial contamination during the manufacturing process. To achieve this, manufacturers must ensure the highest standards of hygiene and the highest quality raw materials.
The most serious breakdown processes are caused by the growth of microorganisms, oxidation and staleness. This results in rancidity, discolouration and loss of taste. A fresh pizza for example, left out in the open air at 4°C to 6°C (39.2 to 42.8ºF), spoils in about a week.
High quality can be maintained for a few extra weeks by packaging the product in a modified atmosphere with a low oxygen (O2) concentration and high carbon dioxide (CO2) level. In the case of pizza, the concentration of oxygen should be less than 1.5%.
The relationship between carbon dioxide and nitrogen (N2) in prepared food packages mainly depends on the moisture content of the product, but also on the composition of the food. This determines the speed of microbial growth, oxidation and enzymatic activity. The higher the water activity, the higher the carbon dioxide concentration in the package.
Multi-component products have special demands
Prepared foods can spoil very fast in the wrong environments. This applies in particular to foods with a neutral pH value. Each prepared food product presents its own challenges. Products with diverse and variable components (such as sandwiches, filled pasta, salads, pizza and spring rolls) are particularly difficult to handle.
As each ingredient has its own properties, in-depth knowledge is required to find the gas mixture that will best inhibit deterioration and maintain quality. MAP can make a valuable contribution to preserving quality and extending shelf life.
The catering industry has always been challenged to deliver fresh, fine foods of the highest quality. Last minute production is often required to meet these demands. In most cases, this is an inefficient and very expensive way to operate.
MAPAX® technology in your kitchen or production facilities will reduce stress levels to a minimum, allowing you to plan ahead in a professional, well organized manner. MAPAX technology significantly improves economic efficiency and productivity, tightens control over purchasing and storage and extends the shelf life of catered foods.
MAPAX enables catering, hotel and restaurant kitchens to circumvent the “mise en place” flurry of activity. For example, if you slice cheeses and ham for the breakfast buffet on a daily basis, you can reduce this task to once or twice a week. The number of slices stays the same, but you work more efficiently.
This is also true when preparing fresh meat cuts for the grill. Packing sandwiches and chilled food for overtime service and other market segments is a cost efficient and hygienic way of selling your produce.
Uninterrupted temperature control is essential to achieve the desired shelf life and maintain quality. This applies to both the products and the packaging room. It is crucial that staff use only first-class food products and handle them as little and as carefully as possible.