Food and nutrition packaging are much more than attractive containers kept on a retail shelf. Packaging executes multiple functions since it conveys information about the product, educates the consumers, ensures product protection, helps market the product and much more. Therefore, manufacturers of food and nutrition products must keep package quality at the forefront.
Innovations in packaging including the use of flexible packages and shift from plastics to more sustainable materials have accelerated packaging challenges. Hence, ensuring package quality is vital for preventing possible contamination and resultant spoilage of goods. Often, customers may or may not be aware of such contamination, which can cause serious health problems. In case of high-risk individuals such as the elderly or children under 5 years, the consequences may be fatal. Such consequences have a direct impact on company/brand image resulting in product recalls and huge financial losses.
This stresses the importance of implementing appropriate packaging integrity testing solutions in the production line. Among many other techniques available in the market, seal integrity testing is a popular choice for most manufacturers. There are multiple methods of conducting a seal integrity test including destructive and non–destructive test methods. A method applicable in one situation may not be so in other. Manufacturers should choose the appropriate technology depending upon package type, product specifications, defect profile, and testing requirements.
Methods of Seal Integrity Testing
Under destructive testing methods, the sample package may get destroyed and become useless even though the seal passes the test. Demand for such tests has steadily declined due to its inability to detect non-leaking defects. Common test methods under this category include water bath/bubble testing and peel strength test.
To overcome the shortcomings of destructive test methods, non-destructive test methods and technology advancements have been developed. Such methods cause no harm to the package or product and they can be returned to market after testing. According to Oliver Stauffer, Chief Executive Officer at PTI - Packaging Technologies & Inspection “There is a huge shift in the industry toward deterministic and quantitative test methods”. PTI’s VeriPac Vacuum Decay Series and Airborne Ultrasound technology are non-destructive test methods having high applicability in the food and nutrition industry.
PTI’s VeriPac Vacuum Decay technology is a non-destructive package inspection technique, applicable for rigid and flexible packages and with a capability of detecting leaks as small as 10 microns. It has the potential to test different size pouches, stick packs or sachets without any changeover in parts or system settings. VeriPac FLEX Systems, a non-destructive package inspection technique specifically for dry-filled flexible packaging (pouches, stick packs and sachets). The VeriPac FLEX Series are available in several configurations taking into account varied package specifications and test sensitivity requirements.
Pouches are the common form of packaging for many food products like juices, snacks, nuts and coffee. Therefore, ensuring package integrity of such pouches are crucial. PTI’s Airborne Ultrasound technology is a non-destructive seal integrity test that serves as an ultimate solution for pouch seal quality testing, specifically to check that final top seal after filling and sealing the pouch contents. When high frequency sound waves are passed through the pouch seal area, reflections of sound waves are created. Defects are identified by analysing variations of reflected signal strength. It ensures 100% defect detection of pouch seals. PTI’s ultrasound technology can be applied to 100% defect detection of pouch seals as well as for in-depth seal quality testing and analysis.
VeriPac Vacuum Decay technology (F2338) and Airborne Ultrasound technology (F3004) are both ASTM test methods and also FDA consensus standards for package integrity and seal quality inspection. According to the specific nature of the product and package, appropriate testing methods can be selected.