Preserving Food with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Preserving Food with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)
Published On:May 7, 2019 Revised On:July 21, 2023

Ensuring the freshness and quality of food products is a priority for both consumers and manufacturers. The right packaging methods can help maintain food’s peak freshness, leading to spoilage, reduced shelf life, and compromised taste.

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) offers an innovative solution. In this blog, we will delve into MAP, exploring how it works, its benefits, and its positive impact on the food industry and consumers alike.

The Need to Preserve Food

As societies progressed and trade routes expanded, the need for food preservation became even more pronounced to support long-distance transportation and enable global food trade. In modern times, the need to preserve food remains as critical as ever, and several compelling reasons underscore its imperative importance:

  1. Reducing Food Waste: Food waste is a global issue of significant concern. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. Food preservation technologies like MAP play a vital role in extending the shelf life of perishable products, reducing waste, and alleviating the strain on resources and the environment.
  2. Ensuring Food Security: A growing global population and various environmental challenges put immense pressure on food production and distribution systems. Food preservation helps bridge the gap between production and consumption, safeguarding the availability of essential nutrients and sustenance during periods of scarcity or disruptions in the supply chain.
  3. Supporting Seasonal and Regional Variations: The availability of certain fruits, vegetables, and other perishable products is often limited to specific seasons or regions. Preservation techniques enable these products to be enjoyed year-round, providing consumers with diverse and nutritious options regardless of the time of year or location.
  4. Facilitating Trade and Commerce: International trade in food products has become a cornerstone of the global economy. Preservation technologies, such as freezing, refrigeration, and MAP, enable countries to export their produce to distant markets, fostering economic growth and enabling access to a wider range of food choices for consumers worldwide.
  5. Maintaining Nutritional Value: Freshly harvested food products often contain optimal levels of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. However, as time passes, the nutritional content of food can degrade due to enzymatic reactions and microbial activity. Proper preservation methods, like MAP, help retain the nutritional value of food, ensuring that consumers receive the full benefits of the products they consume.
  6. Reducing Dependency on Artificial Additives: Traditional food preservation methods often involved chemical preservatives, which raised concerns about their impact on health and led to a demand for cleaner, additive-free products. Advanced preservation techniques like MAP, which rely on altering the surrounding gas composition, offer a natural and effective alternative to artificial additives.
  7. Supporting Sustainable Practices: As sustainability and environmental consciousness gain traction, consumers seek products with minimal environmental impact. By reducing food waste, preservation technologies contribute to sustainable practices, conserving resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production and disposal.

Understanding Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a packaging technique that extends the shelf life and upholds the quality of perishable food products. Its primary objective revolves around crafting an optimal atmospheric environment within the packaging to impede the natural deterioration processes of the food.

This is accomplished by manipulating the gas composition surrounding the product, primarily by reducing oxygen levels and, in certain cases, adjusting carbon dioxide and nitrogen concentrations.

How Does MAP Work?

The MAP process commences with the meticulous selection of appropriate packaging materials, such as barrier films or trays, capable of effectively controlling the exchange of gases between the food product and its external environment. Subsequently, the food product is placed inside the chosen packaging and securely sealed, rendering it airtight. Before the final sealing stage, the air encompassing the product is purged and replaced with a meticulously calibrated gas mixture tailored to suit the specific food item.

The selection of the appropriate gas mixture is contingent upon various factors, including the type of food, its respiration rate, and the desired shelf life. For instance, fruits and vegetables typically necessitate lower oxygen levels, while meat and fish might benefit from elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Such optimized gas compositions effectively impede microbial growth, enzymatic reactions, and other deteriorative processes, thereby protracting the overall shelf life of the packaged food product.

Advantages of MAP for Food Preservation

  • Extended Shelf Life: The primary advantage of MAP is its ability to extend the shelf life of perishable food items significantly. This is particularly advantageous for long-distance transportation and is pivotal in minimizing food waste at both the producer and consumer levels.
  • Preservation of Nutritional Value: By impeding degradation processes, MAP ensures the retention of the nutritional value of the food, allowing consumers to derive the maximum benefit from the products they purchase.
  • Enhanced Food Safety: The lowered oxygen levels within MAP packages inhibit the growth of spoilage microorganisms and certain pathogens, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses and contamination.
  • Preservation of Freshness and Aesthetics: MAP effectively maintains the crispness, colour, and visual appeal of fruits and vegetables, rendering them more enticing to discerning consumers.
  • Reduced Dependence on Preservatives: The natural preservation effect of MAP mitigates the necessity for artificial preservatives, aligning with the growing consumer preference for clean-label products.
  • Expanded Market Opportunities: With extended shelf life, food manufacturers can explore new markets and export opportunities without compromising the quality of their products.

Using Modified Atmosphere Packaging Films

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) films are a critical component in ensuring the success of the MAP process. These specialized films are designed to create a gas-tight barrier around the food product, regulating the exchange of gases to extend shelf life and preserve product quality. When using MAP films, the following steps are essential for effective food preservation:

  1. Choose the Right MAP Film: The appropriate MAP film is crucial in achieving the desired preservation outcome. Different films are available, each with unique properties that cater to specific food products and packaging requirements. Some factors to consider include the film’s gas permeability, thickness, barrier properties, and compatibility with the food product. Consult with packaging suppliers or experts to determine the most suitable MAP film for your application.
  2. Ensure Film Integrity and Sealing: Before using MAP films, inspect them for any defects or damages that could compromise their gas barrier properties. Ensure that the packaging equipment used for sealing the films is in optimal condition. Proper sealing is essential to create an airtight environment within the package, preventing any gas exchange between the food and its surroundings.
  3. Calculate the Optimal Gas Mixture: The gas mixture inside the MAP package must be tailored to the specific food item. Calculate the required gas composition based on the food’s respiration rate, sensitivity to oxygen, and other factors. This may involve adjusting oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen concentrations to create an ideal gas balance for food preservation.
  4. Monitor and Control Gas Levels: Maintaining precise gas levels inside the MAP package is critical to ensuring optimal preservation. Some packaging equipment allows for gas flushing and analyzing capabilities, enabling real-time monitoring and adjustment of gas concentrations as needed. Regularly check gas levels throughout the packaging process to verify the integrity of the MAP system and make any necessary adjustments.
  5. Store Packaged Products Properly: After packaging, store the MAP products under appropriate conditions to maximize shelf life. Keep the products at the recommended temperature and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or extreme temperature fluctuations that could compromise the MAP film’s integrity or alter the package’s gas composition.
  6. Follow Best Handling Practices: Proper handling is essential to maintain the efficacy of MAP films. Avoid rough handling or sharp objects that could puncture or damage the packaging, leading to gas leakage and compromised preservation. Additionally, ensure that MAP films are stored in a clean and controlled environment to prevent contamination.


Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a food packaging solution for preserving perishable food items. By engineering an optimized gas environment within the packaging, MAP effectively prolongs shelf life, safeguards nutritional value, and bolsters food safety.

As the food industry continues its supply globally, MAP will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in meeting the diverse demands of consumers for fresh, high-quality, and sustainable products, thereby fostering a healthier, more environmentally conscious future for producers and consumers alike.