Workshop aims to close the gap in knowledge about plastics packaging and shelf-life

Beef Central, 27/10/2015

A LACK of knowledge on food packaging and shelf-life is costing Australian food producers through over-packaging and hindering their export potential into Asia, according to a leading packaging technology expert.

Gordon Robertson

Gordon Robertson

With local food producers looking to the Asia-Pacific market as an opportunity to grow their businesses, Dr Gordon Robertson*, a Professor of Packaging Technology, says there is a knowledge gap when it comes to effective plastic packaging and what that means for a food’s shelf-life, particularly in the more tropical Asian climates.

“That’s the real challenge. You can sell a product happily in Australia, but then you get someone in a tropical country who wants to buy it, and you find the shelf-life is reduced because it’s a much warmer climate with higher humidity, and less reliable cold-chain,” Dr Robertson said.

How can red meat processors and exporters take that into account?

Dr Robertson is holding a two-day workshop on Plastics Packaging and Shelf-life for the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology at CSIRO’s Weribee facility in Melbourne from 10-11 November.

The workshop, back by popular demand, will see Dr Robertson seeking to close what he sees as a significant industry knowledge gap on plastic packaging and shelf-life.

“While some food science and technology degree courses do include lectures on food packaging, they tend to be superficial. As a result, many graduates have a less than adequate understanding of the basic principles, and their practical application in today’s industrial world,” he said.

“That’s why there is a lot of interest in the workshops. People get into the food industry and find they have to deal with packaging and shelf-life, and they know little or nothing about it, even though they have a degree in food technology or science.”

plantic-packaging-bio-degradableAlthough technology around food packaging is becoming increasingly sophisticated, Dr Robertson says his workshop is focused on the basics. This includes the different types of plastic packaging materials, their permeability and barrier properties, converting plastics into effective packaging for different food types, food deterioration and how to determine a food’s shelf-life and package accordingly.

“It’s really a case of giving stakeholders the methodology to design their own packaging trials, and select the right plastic to give them the shelf-life performance they need,” he said.

Dr Robertson says small to medium sized businesses tended to rely on the advice of packaging suppliers for their packaging needs. But without food technology expertise, over-packaging and larger costs could result.

“I’m here to inform participants that they can’t rely solely on their packaging suppliers. They are packaging manufacturers, not food technologists, and they may have questionable knowledge of food or how it deteriorates.”

“Anyone can over-package a product, that’s a no-brainer. But to actually choose the right combination of plastics, to give just the right shelf-life requires a bit more knowledge. And stakeholders can save a lot of money in the process.”

Limited places are available for Dr Robertson’s Plastics Packaging and Shelf-life workshop at CSIRO Food and Nutrition, Werribee. Click here to register.

  • Dates and times: 10-11 November 8.30am-4:45pm. All refreshment breaks provided
  • Location: CSIRO, 671 Sneydes Road Werribee, VIC
  • Cost: AIFST/AFGC members $990 (incl GST) Non- members $1265 (incl GST).


* Professor Gordon Robertson is a food packaging consultant, author and trainer, and an adjunct Professor in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at the University of Queensland. Prior to that he spent 11 years as vice-president for environmental & external affairs for Tetra Pak in the company’s Asia regional headquarters, and was doundation Professor of Packaging Technology at Massey University, NZ, where he taught courses in food packaging for 21 years.


Source: Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST)


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