Do you know which are the most appropriate containers for canning?
Do you know the containers that can be subjected to sterilization processing by autoclaving?
At TERRA Food-Tech® we explain the different types of food packaging, their advantages and disadvantages, and how the sterilization process influences each one of them.
When preparing preserves, one of the first questions that may arise is what type of container to use. Not only for technical and health related issues, but also in terms of brand image of the product. In any case, we must use hermetic containers that allows the preserves to be subjected to a sterilization process by autoclaving to destroy all bacteria, including their spores, without significantly altering the organoleptic and nutritional characteristics of the original product. In addition, doing this process well will allow us to comply with Food Safety regulations and also skip the cold distribution chain.
Types of food packaging
Currently, there are a multitude of food containers on the market that are suitable for autoclaving and that comply with current legislation regarding safety and hygiene. What is of vital importance is that all of them must be made with materials that withstand the sterilization temperatures.
Glass jars and bottles are used thoroughly in food packaging , especially by those brands that want to convey an image of homemade or craftsmanship. They are especially suited to represent gourmet preserves.
The twist-off caps have an internal lining that ensures airtight internal closure. They must be made of materials resistant to high temperatures. In fact, some companies sell caps specific for pasteurization (that only withstand temperatures below 100ºC) and lids for sterilization processes ( they withstand temperatures above 100ºC).
- Glass resists high temperatures, making it one of the most widely used containers for food sterilization. Resisting without problems the high temperatures of the washing, filling and recapping.
- They must be made of materials resistant to high temperatures. In fact, some companies sell caps specific for pasteurization (that only withstand temperatures below 100ºC) and lids for sterilization processes ( they withstand temperatures above 100ºC).
- One of the great advantages of glass is that it can be reused and recycled in its entirety.
- There is a wide variety of forms on the market that allows several branding options and differentiation for the consumer.
- It is one of the most expensive materials. furthermore, as it is a heavy product, its distribution becomes more expensive .
- It must be handled with care, as there is a risk of breakage.
- Printing is difficult or impossible, therefore promotional messages must be made on labels.
- The material is transparent and allows light to pass through, which may affect the preservation of some food products.
- In case of the glass container, not recycling correctly can be a problem because nature will take years to debug it and conforms an important forest fire risk.
STERILIZING GLASS CONTAINERS IN TERRA Food-Tech® AUTOCLAVES
Depending on the model of autoclave and the measures of the container, you will be able to achieve a greater output per cycle. For instance, considering a standard glass jar of 62 x 57 mm (height by diameter), you would be able to sterilize from 60 to 460 glass jars per cycle depending on the TERRA Food-Tech® autoclave.
These autoclave also incorporate a lid piercing kit and a temperature probe that can be placed on a product sample to perfectly control the entire process, preserving the organoleptic properties and minimizing possible changes in the nutritional characteristics of the packaged product. They also incorporate a fast cooling function to minimize heat transfer excess and a counter pressure system that prevents breakage of containers during the autoclaving. For those larger producers there are specific accessories such as the stainless steel basket elevator to work more comfortably and avoid carrying weight.
Cans, made of steel and/or aluminum, are also suitable and very popular containers for preserving food. For a better image of the preserve, they can be screen printed, lined or even packed in printed cardboard boxes.
- Canned foods are sealed and they are excellent to protect food against ultraviolet light or oxygen.
- Currently, canned food has evolved and guarantees that food won’t be in direct contact with the metal thanks to the coating of varnish with alimentary grade that isolates the food. Furthermore, cans do not modify the taste, quality and consistency of the food.
- They allow many screen printing options.
- The cans are 100% recyclable, so they help preserve the environment.
- Depending on the material, they can be susceptible to corrosion, such as oxidation.
- The material is not translucent, so the consumer cannot appreciate its content before purchasing the product, which sometimes can be disadvantageous.
- Especially acidic food canned in aluminum containers may experience flavor alteration, in which case the stored product may acquire a characteristic metallic taste.
STERILIZING CANS IN TERRA Food-Tech® AUTOCLAVES
As with glass containers, the amount of product that can be processed per cycle will depend on the dimensions of the autoclave and the size of the can.
The lid piercing kit is also suitable for piercing cans, so a temperature probe can also be placed on a sample to monitor the entire process. Depending on the depth of the can, there are various probe options.
It will be important to correctly program the counterpressure value to avoid breakage or deformation of the cans.
The plastic containers such as semi-rigid trays, bags or pouches are increasingly used in the production of canned food. They are one of the cheapest packages and they are preferred by consumers especially in the case of pre-cooked food. For many reasons, because they show the product inside like a glass bottle, and also for practical reasons since they can be heated in microwaves or frozen directly. In the case of pouches or heat sealed bags, a very popular trend nowadays in the food industry, they take up very little space and they are flexible, so they are easy to store and to manipulate.
- Notably, their main advantages as are its low production cost and especially low weight, what saves on costs and energy during transport.
- Other important qualities of plastic containers include its safety in addition to being hygienic.
- High impact on the environment due their high volume of consumption. Despite the fact that they can be recycled almost entirely, the plastics industry continually innovates to increase the sustainability of this material, which is why biodegradable plastics and smart packaging can already be found.
STERILIZING PLASTIC CONTAINERS IN TERRA Food-Tech® AUTOCLAVES
Plastic containers can also be sterilized with autoclaves. If we consider the case of 200x150x20 mm pouches (base by depth by height), up to 20 to 95 pouches per cycle can be sterilized, depending on TERRA Food-Tech® autoclave model. In the case of a 50x150x120 mm plastic tray (base by depth by height), we would be working up to 80 containers per cycle in our 150L autoclaves , a significant amount of preserves per cycle for small producers.
In the case of plastic containers, it is extremely important to correctly adjust the back pressure value and control the duration and number of water fillings during the rapid cooling phase to avoid breakage or deformation of the containers . In addition, there are also specific probes for pouches.
TERRA Food-Tech® retorts
TERRA Food-Tech® retorts are designed for cooking, sterilization and pasteurization of food packed in cans, glass and plastic containers. They are the product of the evolution of the RAYPA brand, with more than 40 years of experience in the manufacture of sterilization equipment. They are compact autoclaves developed to meet the demand of small producers of canned food and to facilitate development, testing and quality control in the food industry.
Productive capacity in TERRA Food-Tech® autoclaves
TERRA Food-Tech® offers compact autoclaves for small producers or laboratory tests. There are 2 available models: vertical or higher load with a productive capacity per cycle from 28 to 150 liters and horizontal load or benchtop with a capacity of 21 to 75 liters.
Contact our sales team for more information or to find out the autoclave that best suits your business.