Which gases are typically used in MAP? (And which aren’t?)

Posted on 6 juli 2023

Choosing the right composition of gases to make a bag of rice last a lot longer: it’s almost an art form. 

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the gases that are used in MAP and how they help to preserve the quality and safety of food products. 

From the most common gases like Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide, to the less commonly used gases like Argon, we will explore the role of each gas in preserving the freshness and quality of food. 

The 3 gases used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging

  1. Oxygen (O2): Oxygen is the most common gas used in MAP. It is typically used to preserve the color, flavor, and texture of the food. The amount of oxygen in the package can be adjusted to slow down or prevent the oxidation of the food.
  2. Carbon dioxide (CO2): Carbon dioxide is another common gas used in MAP. It can prevent the growth of microorganisms that can cause spoilage and discoloration of the food. It can also help to preserve the flavor and aroma of the food by slowing down enzymatic reactions. Check out our article on the role of carbon dioxide in MAP.
  3. Nitrogen (N2): Nitrogen is an inert gas that is used in MAP to displace oxygen and prevent oxidation. It is also used to create a barrier around the food to prevent it from absorbing odors from its surroundings. Read our full blog on how nitrogen extends shelf life.

Other gases used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging

Some other gases that are used in MAP include methane, ethylene, and propylene. However, these gases are not commonly used because they do not provide preservation properties. 

Is argon used in Modified Atmosphere packaging?

The use of argon (Ar) gas as a supplement to CO2–N2 mixtures or as substitute for N2 is a current approach to enhance the effectiveness of MAP. 

The original musketeers in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) are oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. 

But in some cases, argon is used too. Argon, can serve as an alternative to nitrogen. It has been allowed to be used for MAP in the European Union in the last decade.

Argon has the properties of being inert, odorless, and tasteless.

Although inert, argon is suggested to have biochemical activities. It can interfere with oxygen receptor sites of enzymes and protein conformation change. Furthermore, argon is better at displacing oxygen than nitrogen

Some research has proven argon to be effective in MAP when tested on chicken breast. Read the full research here.

But still, argon (Ar) is not commonly used in Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) for food products. 

Argon is however used in industrial applications such as welding, lighting and even in wine packaging. When used in wine bottles, Argon is used to displace the oxygen in the bottle, which can help to preserve the wine's flavor and aroma. The argon gas pushes out the oxygen that is present in the headspace of the bottle, creating a protective blanket of inert gas around the wine, which helps to prevent the oxidation process.

Finding the right mixture of gases for your product

Choosing the right levels for your product is an expert job. If you're curious to learn how much longer the shelf life of products can be and how we can achieve this for your products, reach out to our team

Want to work towards sustainable supply chain management?

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Testing and improving your packaging (1,6MB)
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The Modified Atmosphere Packaging Process Whitepaper

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