Since the early 2000’s we have seen oxygen absorbers being used to remove the oxygen content in air from high value food products. At AMPS we started distributing oxygen absorbers for the company Powdertech Corporation back in 2001.
The oxygen absorber we are most likely all familiar with is a small sachet of powdered material which, when exposed to air, will fairly quickly absorb the oxygen present.
Before my readers become concerned, absorbers are sized to only absorb a certain volume of oxygen. The sizing is approximate but fairly close to the volume of empty space left inside the package that you purchased.
How does it work?
Oxygen absorbers come in two general types, ferric and non-ferric. Ferric absorbers are fairly common place, they are made up of a small amount of iron powder with some form of catalyst. Non ferric do not contain iron but contain natural, usually plant based material which absorbs oxygen. The presence of a catalyst serves to speed up the absorption process. Normally full absorption takes place within 24 hours.
This powder combination is contained inside a porous sachet. The pores of the sachet are only large enough to let in air and the chemical reaction between the material inside the sachet and the air causes oxidation and permanently and irreversibly removes the oxygen from the packet.
Is it safe?
Yes, the sachet material is made and certified to be safe to use in contact with food. The sachet should not be opened, but, in the unlikely event that it is, the contents are generally small enough in amount to not cause any health concerns. However, you should always have young children checked out by your local health centre if you are concerned.
Whats new in Oxygen absorbers?
AMPS has developed an oxygen absorbing ink. Over the last 2 years we have worked and developed a product which can be inkjet printed to provide an absorption of around 9cc of oxygen for 1 cc of ink. Of course, this opens up the packaging industry to now use an oxygen absorber inside their packaging and best of all, it will be printed directly onto the packaging so cannot be eaten!!
What are the advantages?
By using an ink as an oxygen absorber, the need for reduced atmosphere packaging is minimised. It also means food stays fresh for longer and reduces the carbon footprint for supermarkets and manufacturers. There should be less waste in supermarkets and less waste at home.