Linde Gases has launched the MAPAX® LD, a pioneering technology to detect defects in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).

MAPAX® LD, standing for MAPAX® Leak Detection, is a high-speed, non-destructive, in-line unit which uses food-grade hydrogen gas in place of visual or manual water-based testing to identify faulty MAP packaging.

The majority of food packaging, which is hermetically sealed using MAP technology, has traditionally been only sample tested for integrity rather than each individual package being evaluated. The randomness of the sample method has meant that when a defective package is discovered, the entire batch being processed since the last check has to either be re-packaged or disposed of.

Faulty food packaging, such as poor sealing, food caught in between packaging seals, tears or even pin-sized holes, can lead to increased production costs for food packager and reduced shelf life, spoilage and customer complaints for the food retailer. In serious cases, large batches of faulty packaging can even lead to potential financial penalties for food packagers and risks to consumer safety.

“MAPAX® LD is unique in that it allows for the identification of defective packaging to be undertaken as part of the overall production process with a 100% validation rate – so that each and every item is analysed, with up to a hundred checked per minute,“ said Mark Ewig, Global Strategic Marketing & Development, Food & Beverages, Linde.

“By using hydrogen gas to detect any faults in the packaging, the analysis is non-destructive – versus the water-based method where the food item is likely to be destroyed once immersed. The non-destructive method allows for the food item to be taken off the production line, defective packaging removed and then repackaged, thereby reducing food wastage.”

MAPAX® LD is a patented technology used on modified atmosphere production lines for a wide range of packaged foodstuffs, from meat, poultry and fish to pre-packaged salads, nuts, dried fruits and coffee. MAPAX® LD works by adding food grade hydrogen to the MAPAX gas mix at the packaging sealing stage. A gas mixture incorporating up to 4% hydrogen can be used with no impact on the foodstuff being packaged. When hydrogen is detected by the MAPAX® LD sensor, a visual alarm is activated, allowing the defective items to be removed from the production line with minimal interruption to the packaging process.

Faulty settings on the packaging machine can also be identified earlier, as when several leaks are found consecutively, production can be paused and settings corrected, reducing the risk of further defective packaging during that production run.

The MAPAX® LD unit is manufactured from stainless steel, to stringent specifications and conforms to all international food hygiene standards. The food grade hydrogen used is ISO 22000 certified.

MAPAX® LD can be seen in action as part of the Robotic Park Line demonstration in Hall 7 at the Anuga FoodTec trade show from 24-27 March in Cologne, Germany. Visit Linde at stand A054, Hall 10.1.