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Corrugated Packaging Outperforms Returnable Plastic Containers in Containing Bacteria

When it comes to micro-biological contamination corrugated packaging keeps the fruits and vegetables fresher than RPCs.

Corrugated 1The scientific work at the University of Bologna’s Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, conducted by Professor Rosalba Lanciotti and her team published in Frontiers in Microbiology along with other studies proved that corrugated containers keep fruits and vegetables fresh up to three days longer than RPCs (returnable plastic containers).

The research revealed that corrugated boxes considerably reduce the micro-biological contamination. It also showed that microorganisms survive longer on plastic surfaces as compared to corrugated surfaces. The paper fibers trap these microorganisms and they die due to lack of nutrients and water, resulting in increased freshness of the product.

President and CEO of the U.S.-based Fiber Box Association (FBA), Dennis Colley said, “We’re pleased to see the University of Bologna’s research published in a scientific journal. It reinforces our industry’s commitment to use science in seeking facts about the performance of corrugated packaging.”

As per the studies, the pathogenic microorganisms could cause food borne illness and growth of microorganisms could spoil or affect shelf-life and the quality of fruit. So, both corrugated and plastic surfaces were kept under observation and this test for both packaging materials was conducted under the same environmental and correct storage conditions. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images showed that after few hours the superficial contamination on corrugated surfaces was much lower than on plastic materials.

Corrugated surfaces were able to entrap the microbial cells within their fibers. Once the cells were trapped, researchers observed how they underwent lysis: their cell walls and membrane ruptured, the cytoplasm leaked, and the cell disintegrated. This phenomenon occurred in all the studied target microorganisms, both pathogenic and spoilage.

On the other hand, the SEM images of plastic showed smooth and continuous surfaces unable to trap microorganisms. In addition, the presence of tiny cuts and scratches on the RPC surface can aid the proliferation of microorganisms. Damaged or worn plastic becomes difficult to clean and can easily fill with organic matter that microbial cells feed on to survive and grow.

Professor Rosalba Lanciotti’s recent work and the study published earlier this summer were initiated by the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO).

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