The preservation of food is a key stage in the production and consumption chain, since it prolongs the shelf life of the food, while ensuring that they reach the consumer in optimal conditions. This is essential, since the physicochemical, microbiological and organoleptic characteristics of the product are maintained from its production, storage, transfer, distribution and sale to the public. The most common procedures for preserving food include:
- Chemical Conservation
- Gamma radiation
- Inert gas atmosphere
These storage procedures take into account the type and nature of the food and its packaging. Hermetically packaged foods such as cured sausages and cheeses are available. Others use vacuum, such as bacon and some types of coffee, to preserve their smell and taste. And in others, you leave a certain volume of air in the package, like in cookies and wine and beer bottles, and in some types of grain — and in the latter examples, nitrogen finds its application.
What are the most relevant properties of nitrogen?
Nitrogen (N2) is an odorless and colorless gas, poorly soluble in water and is the main component of the atmosphere, accounting for about 77%. It is in the form of a diatomic molecule, and is, under ordinary conditions, an inert gas. (This means it is a non-reactive gas.) Given its relative abundance in the atmosphere, it can be blended from the air, purified, stored in tanks and used for various uses.
Although its boiling point is below -190 °C below zero, even below oxygen (O2) and argon (Ar), from the technical point of view it can be liquefied and transported safely to the sites where it is required, the only technical requirements being the care of tanks, valves and gages that regulate the gas outlet pressure. However, for some applications, liquid nitrogen is used in freeze-drying assays for various purposes.
Why is nitrogen used in food preservation?
Nitrogen is one of the gases, which together with oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) are used in packaging systems with modified atmosphere, being the case that the mixture of gases surrounding the food is intentionally varied to maintain the properties and functions of the food. In some cases, it is preferable to move the air from the nitrogen packages, due to its inertia, its lack of flavor and aroma, since in the foods where it is applied prevents:
- Product oxidation
- Proliferation of aerobic organisms
- Changes in color and taste
- Disintegration of solid foods
- Food spoilage (this increases the aging time)
The use of nitrogen in the beer packaging prevents oxidation of the otherwise bitter drink; the result is a pleasant and creamier taste. In addition, it prevents the oxidation of the metal containers where the beer is stored, in which case it would deteriorate and affect the quality of the product they contain. Other beverages, such as wine, retain their taste better if nitrogen is used before sealing the bottle with the stopper.
In solid foods such as potatoes, biscuits and breads, the volume of internal nitrogen not only maintains its flavor, but prevents those foods from fracturing. Can you imagine some potatoes being dusted? This is why potato sachets come with air (nitrogen). Finally, salads and fruits and vegetables that come prepared can be mentioned, where the removal of oxygen from the packaging prevents the nutrients of vegetables from degrading.
Other gases used for packaging, such as oxygen, are used in foods where their presence enhances a quality of packaging. For example, red meats look redder and fresher in an oxygen atmosphere. Carbon dioxide can be used to prevent the development of microorganisms such as bacteria that can put people’s health at risk.
Why use Kalstein Nitrogen Tanks?
The current technologies for the packaging and preservation of food use nitrogen in multiple applications, and in this field, the manufacturer Kalstein makes available to the industry, nitrogen tanks that meet all quality and safety standards, for use in food manufacturing. Nitrogen tanks, as described in this link HERE, are made with the best quality materials, guarantee vacuum for at least 5 years, are thermally efficient and evaporative losses are minimal.