Food losses, shelf life extension and environmental impact of a packaged cheesecake: A life cycle assessment

TitleFood losses, shelf life extension and environmental impact of a packaged cheesecake: A life cycle assessment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsGutierrez, MM, Meleddu, M, Piga, A
JournalFood Research International

Packaging is associated with a high environmental impact. This is also the case in the food industry despite packaging being necessary for maintaining food quality, safety assurance and preventing food waste. The aim of the present study was to identify improvements in food packaging solutions able to minimize environmental externalities while maximizing the economic sustainability. To this end, the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology was applied to evaluate the environmental performance of new packaging solutions. The environmental impact of packaging and food losses and the balance between the two were examined in relation to a cheesecake that is normally packaged in low density polyethylene film and has a limited shelf life due to microbial growth. A shelf life extension was sought via application of the well-established modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technique. Samples for MAP (N2/CO2: 70/30) were placed inside multilayer gas barrier trays, which were then wrapped with a multilayer gas and water barrier film (i.e. AerPack packaging); control batches were packaged in gas barrier recycled polyethylene terephthalate (XrPet) trays and wrapped with a XrPet film. Samples were then stored at 20 °C and inspected at regular intervals for chemical-physical, microbiological and sensory parameters. Results show that the new packaging solution could considerably extend the shelf life of cheesecakes, thereby reducing food waste and decreasing the overall environmental impact. Moreover, the new packaging allows one to minimize transport costs and to generate economies of scale in manufacturing.

Keywordsenvironmental impacts, Life cycle assessment, modified atmosphere packaging, shelf life