Oxygen absorbers also known as oxygen scavengers are added to enclosed packaging to reduce the level of oxygen in the package thus increasing the shelf life of the material stored in packed conditions. Oxygen absorbers are extensively used in the food & pharma industries nowadays to extend the shelf life of products. They also find application in the pharmaceutical and metal industries. Previously, components like pyrogallic acid were used as oxygen absorbers. However, modern oxygen absorbers use natural alternatives such as iron powder.
Although oxygen is known as a life supporting gas, sometimes its oxidation property can make its presence undesirable. Oxidation is an irreversible chemical process which involves the reaction of different elements with atmospheric oxygen. Oxygen can cause the growth of microorganisms changing the colour and odour of packaged foods. To increase the shelf life of packaged material, especially foods, iron powder can be the best natural alternative used as an oxygen absorber.
These oxygen absorbers come in the form of sachets which are put inside the food packets during the packaging process. The oxygen absorber is a mix of iron powder and sodium chloride. Along with this, activated carbon is also added to the mixture. When the iron powder comes into contact with oxygen, it starts absorbing it. This causes oxidation of the iron powder, thus preventing the product from being oxidized. That is how oxygen is reduced to levels as low as 0.01 in the package. While iron powder is the main ingredient required to absorb oxygen, sodium chloride helps as an activator of the oxidation process. Carbon is helpful in removing certain other gases inside the package and also in removing unwanted odours.
There are other processes which can be more helpful in removing oxygen, but these processes and the alternatives such as BHA, sorbates, BHT, Sulphur dioxide and benzoates aren’t considered to be as safe as iron powder. Sulphur compounds can lead to the creation of unwanted odours. On the other hand, iron powder based oxygen absorbers do not contaminate the food even slightly. It is so safe that even in unexpected circumstances like the oxygen absorber sachet opening inside the food package, it still would not cause any harm. Rigorous toxicology testing has proved food grade oxygen absorbers to be safe and they are also FDA approved.
Unlike the common misconception, using iron powder-based oxygen absorbers do not alter the taste and flavour of food products. Vitamins like A, E, and C are not oxidized, and the nutrient value of the food product is retained at its maximum level. Products such as polyunsaturated fats and oils can be stored for a longer time without reduction in quality with the help of iron powder-based oxygen absorbers.
Iron powder-based oxygen absorbers are also used in some other industries along with the food industry. They are used in the packaging of medicines and medical equipments and in the packaging of bird foot and pet food. Along with this, they are helpful in the preservation of artwork and old books.
Iron powder due to its unique properties is the best natural alternative to chemical components used in oxygen absorbers. IMP India Pvt. Ltd. has been actively involved in the production of high purity food & pharma grades iron powders with customized particle sizes which can be used for producing good quality oxygen absorbers.
For your requirement for high purity iron, please do visit IMP @ CPHI, Greater Noida between 26th to 28th Nov 19 @ HALL 2A-10 or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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