As the popularity of shelf-stable convenience foods increases, there is an emerging need to develop reliable, polymer-based food packages with peelable, heat-sealed lids for foods packaged under hot-fill, aseptic, or retort processes. For these products, seal integrity and package durability are critical to product safety and consumer acceptance. These concerns, in conjunction with the need to provide the convenience of peelable lids, give rise to the challenge of evaluating various aspects of package performance influencing seal integrity, durability, and peelability. Proper evaluation of these parameters requires testing techniques that yield data that are indicative of the attribute under consideration. The results of these tests, along with some fundamental understanding of mechanical and chemical properties of the materials being used, are key factors for measuring the performance of the package “system.” Today, there are a variety of proprietary procedures for evaluating critical aspects of package performance. The plethora of test methods needs to coalesce into a set of standardized procedures that can be used to provide meaningful product performance data communicated in a common language that can be utilized and understood by all of the diverse groups involved in taking a packaging “system” from a concept to the grocery shelf. This need is critical in markets where issues such as consumer safety and liability risks are major factors influencing packaging acceptance.
This presentation provides a detailed review of techniques and equipment developed for easy-to-use, reproducible, standardized procedures to evaluate the performance of polymer-based food packages. It also discusses test results and their relationship to package performance. The discussion will focus on test methods, including equipment and instrumentation, applicable to: 1. Container seal integrity. 2. Lid peelability. 3. Container abuse resistance.
Normalized test data are used to supplement the discussion of the procedures utilized. The impact of fundamental specimen properties, instrument response limitations, and other factors influencing the results will also be reviewed.