Food packaging has come a long way from the days suppliers used tree leaves to wrap and secure their goods. Packaging plays a key role in keeping food safe from damage during handling and free of contaminants. Have a look at some ways modern consumer containers are working to help make sure your meals are healthy, tasty, and safer than ever before.

1. IT PROTECTS OUR PRODUCE.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can travel hundreds of miles before arriving at your local grocery store. While farm crops have built-in protection thanks to their skins and peels, suppliers often need to guard against bruising as goods make their way through distributors and retail outlets. Corrugated cardboard—first used in the 19th century as lining for top hats—has become the packaging of choice for transporting fresh foods. The bonding process required to adhere its layers creates temperatures high enough to kill bacteria, making for a clean surface. The ability to recycle the cartons also discourages repeated use, which can reduce the chances of cross-contamination.

2. IT PREVENTS TAMPERING.

If you’ve ever tried to disguise that you’ve opened a box of cookies before dinner, you know it’s not easy. Modern packaging uses a careful balance of cardboard density and adhesives so that any attempt to get to the contents will be obvious. While that may not help you in lying about cracking open a box, it does prevent tampering while the product is on store shelves.

3. IT HELPS KEEP ALLERGY SUFFERERS IN THE KNOW.

The advent of printing techniques on print-ready food packaging allows for a wide variety of nutritional information, ingredients, and other data to be easily displayed and read by consumers. Sharp, clear printing on paper material also gives those with food allergies a clear and concise heads-up on potential allergens—information that was hard to read or hard to find just a few years ago.

4. IT EXTENDS YOUR FOOD’S SHELF LIFE.

Properly treated, paper and paper-derived packaging like cardboard acts as a barrier against oxygen and water vapor, two elements that hasten the untimely demise of food. By depriving packaged goods of oxygen, paper can inhibit mold and bacteria growth and helps foods retain their appearance and flavor for longer periods of time.

5. ITS USE WITH FOOD IS REGULATED.

Nowadays, the parts of paper packaging that come into contact with food is regulated by the FDA to try to ensure that dangerous amounts of various compounds don't leach into food during approved use. One example is butcher paper: FDA-approved food-grade butcher paper is considered safe enough to come in contact with meats and poultry. Pediatricians also recommend wrapping foods like sandwiches in wax paper rather than plastic to minimize exposure to chemicals like phthalates.

6. IT CAN HELP HEAT FROZEN FOOD MORE THOROUGHLY.

If you’re pressed for time, premade frozen meals can help you grab a quick bite. While many of these dishes come in microwavable trays, products that use paperboard with susceptor (silver aluminum-based) rings are able to absorb microwave energy more effectively, dispersing heat and raising internal food temperatures to help eliminate bacteria.

7. IT CAN CREATE AN ASEPTIC ENVIRONMENT.

In recent years, aseptic paper packaging has found favor among manufacturers and consumers. (Think of the cartons of soup you see instead of cans.) In this process, paper materials can be sterilized through a heated hydrogen peroxide bath. After the hydrogen peroxide is eliminated, pasteurized food goes into the sterile container. Foods that once went bad quickly—diced tomatoes, meats, and dairy-based recipes—can now remain tasty for up to six months. 

Paper packaging can make your food safer and tastier, but that’s not all it can do. To learn more about packaging’s amazing abilities, http://howlifeunfolds.com/protect.

Sources: How Life Unfolds [PDF], IFT.org, PaperandPackaging.org, "Application of plastics and paper as food packaging materials – An overview" [PDF], FDA, Oren-Intl.com, The New York Times, FoodProcessing.com, Tetrapak.com, ChemistryWorld.com, "Indirect Food Additives: Paper and Paperboard Components."