Debra Lynn Dadd

Tetra Pak

QUESTION:

Hi Debra, I've been searching tetra paks to see if they're a non-toxic alternative to canned soups (I can find a lot of soups in the organic section in tetra paks). I can't find any information on toxicity levels though, whether something nasty is going to be leaching into my food from these. Can you help? Thanks!

POSTED BY LINDA :: GREEN IRENE :: WWW.GREENIRENE.COM/LINDAMAUMELLE :: ARKANSAS USA :: 02/23/2009 10:50 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Tetra Pak is a brand name for aseptic packaging.

Aseptic packages are made with three materials:

* Paper (70 percent) -- provides stiffness, strength and the efficient brick shape
* Aluminum (6 percent) -- forms a barrier against light and oxygen, eliminating the need for refrigeration and preventing spoilage without using chemical preservatives.
* Polyethylene plastic (24 percent) -- forms the seal on the innermost layer that makes the package liquid-tight (so this is what is next to the food), and a protective coating on the exterior keeps the package dry.

According to the Aseptic Packaging Council the polyethylene layer next to the food is low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Also according to the Aseptic packaging council the LDPE has been tested and found to not contain bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol, and phthalates.

A couple of weeks ago, in Q&A: Food Grade Polyethylene Containers a reader wrote, "We are a tiny manufacture (>50K) of a liquid organic product. Some of our product was stored in high-density polyethylene food grade containers, while another batch was stored in low-density polyethylene, food grade containers. All the product in in HDP containers was ruined. The product in the LDP is fine."

So I don't see a danger to health from aseptic boxes for food or beverages.

There are some other benefits too.

* Retains more nutrients than canning and no preservatives are needed--The aseptic system achieves room-temperature shelf stability through how the food is processed and how it is packaged. Aseptic processing is a major advance over traditional canning techniques. In contrast to canning processes which requires products to be heated in the container for up to 50 minutes, aseptically processed liquid foods and beverages are sterilized outside the package using an ultra-high temperature process that flash heats and cools the product before containers are filled. Time (generally 3 to 15 seconds) and temperature (195 to 285 F) are tailored to place the least amount of thermal stress on the product, while ensuring bacteriological safety. The sterile food product is then placed in an air-tight sterilized package with a within a hygienic environment. This preserves the food without chemical preservatives or refrigeration.

* No refrigeration required --Aseptic packages are the result of a beverage and liquid food system that allows perishable food products to be distributed and stored without refrigeration for periods up to six months or more. It is used to preserve and package everything from milk, juice, and drinks of all kinds to scrambled egg mix, tomato sauce, soups, and other liquid foods.

* Convenience -- because aseptic packages are portable, lightweight, and shatterproof, you can take them anywhere.

* Food Safety -- the aseptic process and carton together ensure that the liquid food or beverage inside is free from harmful bacteria and contaminants.

Environmentally, however, aseptic packaging has its pros and cons.

Aseptic packaging is a good choice for the environment because it has a low packaging to product ratio -- aseptic packages are typically 96 percent product and only 4 percent packaging material by weight -- and they are tremendously energy efficient. Drink boxes save energy at every stage of their lifecycle.

* Empty packages are stored flat or on rolls, rather than pre-formed like glass, metal and most plastic containers. As a result, one standard semi-trailer truck can transport 1.5 million empty drink boxes versus only 150,000 glass bottles.

* Filled drink boxes conserve energy in transport. Their brick shape is space-efficient, and because they are light weight, more product can be shipped in fewer trucks than heavier beverage packages.

* Because drink boxes preserve their contents without refrigeration, no refrigerated trucks, special warehouses, or retail freezers or coolers are needed. This saves both electricity and gasoline.

The downside is that at this time, aseptic packaging has limited facilities for recycling, and drink boxes that are not recycled will sit in landfills for centuries, because they are not biodegradable.

With the consumer benefits that aseptic packaging provides, and the environmental advantages in material and energy savings, it makes sense to increase the recycling opportunities for this type of packaging.

Currently, aseptic packages are collected in curbside and drop-off programs along with other polyethylene-coated beverage cartons. For information on aseptic recyclers, check with your local recycling facility.

To prepare aseptic packaging for recycling, simply squash the box to save storage space. Rinsing will prevent the development of odors during storage.

Debra :-)


COMMENTS:

Thanks Debra! That puts my mind at ease.

POSTED BY LINDA :: GREEN IRENE :: WWW.GREENIRENE.COM/LINDAMAUMELLE :: ARKANSAS USA :: 02/24/2009 6:07 AM


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