In the past food was seasonal; you bought it by weight from a butcher or grocer and you had a pretty good idea about its provenance and freshness.
Today we eat differently.
We want produce to be available year-round, the convenience of food that’s pre-cooked, and details of its nutritional value and how it should be prepared (and stored) printed on the packaging.
For these reasons, and more, we need different types of storage containers.
What are food storage containers?
Food storage containers are a neat and functional way of storing foods or liquids. They must be fit for purpose and comply to government regulations.
For that reason, it is essential food grade containers are used for storing anything that is going to be eaten.
Put simply, you can’t just package produce in any old plastic bucket or jar and hope that it will do the job. A food grade container is one that has been created specifically for the purpose of making sure that the contents maintain their freshness and are safe to eat.
The priority then is for different types of food storage containers not to contaminate what’s inside with non-food chemicals or contaminants that could cause a hazard to human health.
You should never use a container you’re uncertain of. Reputable packaging manufacturers will always be able to confirm which of their products are food safe and comply to regulations.
If packaging is labelled ‘for food contact’ or has a symbol on it that looks like a wine glass and a fork, then you can be assured that you can use it for comestibles.
It might also be useful to know the special rules that are applied to the types of food storage containers because if anything happens, you’ll need written evidence you’ve understood and played by the rules.
This is known as a ‘declaration of compliance’ and you can get it from your packaging supplier. You also have to get one if you buy food that’s already packaged for sale in any of those materials.
Visit www.gov.uk/food-labelling-and-packaging for further information.
Types of food storage containers
Plastic is one of the most versatile substances around and perfect for food packaging for a number of reasons. Of course, there’s an environmental impact when it comes to the overuse of plastics but it is still in demand when it comes to storing food. This is because:
- It is safe
Many plastics are flexible and shatter resistant which means that they won’t break like glass could during transportation or if stored in a freezer or popped into a microwave.
- It’s hygienic
Food-safe plastics will not leak anything toxic and will stop allergens and viruses from contaminating the food.
- It’s strong
Containers will be full of heavy items, slammed down on tables, and dragged across wire shelves. The right kind of plastic is tough and durable and also capable of enduring the temperatures of a refrigerator or freezer.
- Plastic weighs less
This means it is easy and cheaper to transport produce around the world.
- It can be recycled
Plastic is evolving into a material that is recyclable and, in some cases, biodegradable too.
- It’s readily available
Plastic is not a rare commodity and therefore it is more cost effective and can meet demand.
- It keeps food fresher for longer
Plastic packaging helps extend the shelf life of fresh produce, which means there is less food wastage.
What is food safe plastic?
In the UK, food safe plastic is classified by regulation and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the body which sets the standard for all manufacturers.
Rules set out exactly which kind of plastic can come into contact with food and for how long. In short, there needs to be nothing in the material that could potentially be hazardous to human health. This means it cannot be recycled – just in case there remains a toxic residue from the plastic’s previous incarnation, nor contain additives.
Food grade plastics include polypropylene, acetal, polyester (PET) PVD and PTFE (Teflon).
Metal cans have long been used to preserve food because once sealed, they will keep it fresh and make it easier to transport.
Of course, if the tins were purely made of tin (or some other metal) then they would potentially contaminate their contents. With that in mind, before they can be used as food storage containers, they need to be coated with alloys to help prevent corrosion. Many metals and alloys are used to contain food including coated steel, tinplate and aluminium.
Metal cans are an excellent way to store food. This is because:
- They are great for preservation
Canned foodstuffs can last for years because they are less permeable to air and moisture, so this helps prevent waste. The downside is that food which is preserved in cans will often be different in taste and texture than that which is fresh or frozen.
- Cans are durable
Metal is a tougher material than many other types of packaging material. It won’t shatter like glass, or plastic. However, beware dented cans because they can breed bacteria which causes botulism. Leaking and bulging cans can also indicate that food is out of date and should not be consumed.
- They can be recycled
Especially if they are made from aluminium or steel, as these are extremely recyclable materials which can be melted down and transformed into new products.
In spite of some of the drawbacks metal cans with lids are safer than say glass as they are tamper evident, which means that they help to ensure that the contents have not been contaminated or spoilt.
Vacuum pouches and bags are used in conjunction with vacuum chamber machines, mainly by the food industry to extend the shelf life of food. This method involves placing items in a plastic film package, removing air from inside, and sealing it. Food spoils when it is exposed to the air, so by removing the oxygen, vacuum packing limits the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi and prevents the evaporation of volatile components. It is a great way to preserve dry foods such as cereals, cured meats, smoked fish, coffee, and cheese; and on a short-term basis will ensure that meats, fish, shellfish, fruit and vegetables, and herbs and spices also retain their freshness.
Another benefit of vacuum pouches is that they reduce the bulk and volume of the foodstuffs so that they take up less room when stored.
Vacuum packaging also makes it easy for food to be transported.
Glass containers have a history dating back more than 5,000 years, so it is safe to say that it has been tried and tested as a storage container for foodstuffs. Glass itself is made from a combination of natural and sustainably sourced materials, such as sand, soda ash, limestone, and recycled glass content, also known as cullet.
These materials are melted in furnaces and made into new glass containers that are reusable and recyclable.
The major benefit of glass is its permanency. It can be recycled time and again without losing its ability to perform its function and because glass is an inert material, it will always remain healthy and safe for food grade packaging no matter how many times it is recycled.
Reasons why glass is such a popular material for food storage containers include:
- It is recyclable
Glass is 100 per cent recyclable and can go through the process time and again without loss of quality or purity. An incredible 80 per cent of the glass that is recovered during recycling is made into new glass products
- It can be recycled quickly
A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as little as 30 days. An estimated 80 per cent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles.
- Won’t change flavours
Glass is non-porous and impermeable, and that means the bottles and other glass containers will not interact to affect the flavour of food and beverages.
- Won’t contaminate food or drink
Glass has an almost zero rate of chemical interactions, which means that there will be little or no contamination between it and its contents.
What to consider when choosing a container for commercial kitchens
Food storage containers need to suit their purpose. The correct storage is essential if you are to minimise food waste and ensure food is preserved safely in a commercial kitchen.
That means the different types of food storage containers in a commercial kitchen should be high quality and adhere to food safety standards.
Ingredient bins, flour buckets, shelving and storage racks must be available in all shapes and size. Paramount is the need to keep food fresh, separated and ready to prepare. Reducing food handling, separating foods to avoid cross contamination, and holding food at the proper temperature can all help to protect food quality and prevent bacteria or pests that may cause foodborne illnesses.
Different containers are needed so that food can be rotated in a first in first out process that prevents it from going off and being detrimental to health.
Food storage containers must be of a high standard and able to cope with the demands of the commercial kitchen.
The best materials include:
100 per cent BPA-free, airtight lids, stackable and resistant to temperatures between -40°C to +70°C, these containers offer space efficient storage for a wide variety of foods, fitting into your existing storage and food preparation areas
These food containers are also available with air-tight lids that allow them to be stacked. Perfect for storing any foods and ingredients, polypropylene food tubs are a worthy addition to a commercial kitchen.
These are transparent containers what are also practical and versatile when it comes to storage and stacking. Because they are see-through, it’s easy to identify the contents and check stock.
Glass jars are another common way to store foodstuffs in a commercial kitchen. They are durable, air tight and excellent for storing biscuits, preserves and chutneys.
Stainless steel is also a much-used material in commercial kitchens. Stainless steel gastronomes provide practical and versatile storage for every stage of food preparation.
Commercial kitchens deal with food and products in different quantities so containers that are available in a variety of dimensions is essential. Also important is the ability for them to be stackable for easy storage as space in commercial kitchens is often at a premium.
A secure and airtight lid which fits exactly is essential if you are to avoid cross contamination of foodstuffs being stored in a commercial kitchen.
Graduations or measurements
If your container is going to be placed on a shelf, then pick a storage container that can be comfortably hoisted up when it’s full.
Maximising space is essential in commercial kitchens so containers which are stackable are the best choice when it comes to making the available space more workable. This means they should be of a uniform shape rather than say, tapered. Stacking when full also requires sturdy lids to avoid cross-contamination.
Why choose Venturepak for wholesale packaging solutions?
At Venturepak, we know our storage inside out.
We listen to our clients and have the expertise and knowledge to be able to advise them on the most suitable food storage containers for their requirements, whether they are a manufacturer buying in bulk for a specific product or a commercial kitchen demanding space- maximising storage solutions.
When you come to us, you can be assured you are getting containers that adhere to food safety rules and regulations and that your orders will be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Why not take a look at the ranges on our website? Our plastic polypropylene tamper-evident packaging conforms to the highest standards of hygiene so that you will not only get the perfect packaging for your business, but you’ll also be able to relax in the knowledge that it conforms to all legal requirements too.