U.S – Aptar Food + Beverage – Food Protection, a respected leader in food safety and an expert in packaging science, equipment design, and processing, has shown the ability of its SeaWell Protective Packaging System to reduce bacterial growth and preserve seafood quality throughout the supply chain, in a study conducted by Virginia Tech.

The study showed that optimizing liquid control slowed the growth of bacteria in the package, thereby slowing product degradation.

Comparing the microbial growth and kinetics of spoilage between scallops packaged in a SeaWell-based tray vs. standard packaging, the study found that scallops stored in the control group achieved a bacterial count of 6 log CFU/g (considered the limit for food spoilage) 12-13 days after storage, while scallops stored in Aptar’s system did not reach the same threshold until 15-16 days after storage.

The seafood industry has long faced a number of challenges at the grocery store including a perceived lack of freshness, excess liquid in the package that can cause contamination issues, and concerns about safe handling.

Active packaging like SeaWell Protective packaging System are designed to combat these challenges.

The packaging integrates technology that absorbs excess liquids that would otherwise accumulate around the seafood.

The absorbent materials trap excess fluids inside pockets or wells integrated into the bottom of the package also improving consumer perception of seafood at the point of purchase.

With the SeaWell system, trays are thermoformed with cavities into which a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) technology blend is dropped and secured with a heat-sealed piece of nonwoven fabric.

 The SeaWell technology leverages a proprietary three-phase Activ-Polymer platform that can be incorporated into absorbent trays and pouches to significantly limit liquid buildup to improve safety and extend freshness and shelf life.

Seafood in the U.S. is consumed at significantly lower rates due to perceived lack of freshness and safety.

According to packaging world, Aptar argues that packaging can play a key role not only in maintaining seafood freshness and safety, but also in improving consumer perception.

Often, seafood is packaged in foam trays with synthetic pads and overwrap. It’s a cost-effective solution, but it provides little protection from the buildup of bacteria and excessive liquid.

Punctures and leaks are common throughout the supply chain, so those packages often need to be rewrapped as well.

Premium packaging solutions such as vacuum skin packs still fail to handle the high levels of liquids that seafood produces, Aptar says.

It’s inevitable that seafood will weep, meaning it will lose weight related to moisture emission.

However, an extensive amount of weeping is an indication of food proteins breaking down and an overall product quality degradation.

 “The SeaWell system controls excess liquid that would otherwise accumulate in the package. This control of excessive liquid buildup decreases the availability of water, which in turn slows the protein breakdown process by decreasing the rates of chemical reactions and microbial growth,” explains Christa Biggs, manager of business development for Aptar Food + Beverage – Food Protection.

Most supermarkets and large retail stores have their seafood products shipped to them, often from many miles away.

For seafood to travel these distances without spoilage or degradation, it is usually shipped and received frozen then thawed before display.

The SeaWell system supports this same process, the difference being that the product can be thawed inside the packaging, eliminating the need for human handling and minimizing contamination.

The retailer can simply take the product from a frozen environment to a refrigerated one and allow it to thaw in the package before merchandising.