Oxygen Absorber Vs Silica Gel- Desiccants in Food Packaging
Due to their capacity to regulate moisture levels and preserve product freshness, desiccants play an important part in food packaging.
The main cause of food items rotting and degrading in quality during transport is moisture and oxygen. Desiccants such as silica gel packets or oxygen absorbers effectively soak up excess moisture and oxygen, protecting food from microbial growth and preserving its texture, flavor, and nutritional value.
Desiccants also assist in extending the shelf life of food, lowering food waste, and enhancing consumer safety, thus making it crucial for food packaging.
Silica Gel for Food Packaging
Silica gel is frequently used in food packaging to regulate moisture levels and maintain product freshness. Silica gel, despite its name, is actually a porous form of the natural mineral silicon dioxide. It has a high adsorption capacity, which enables it to draw and retain water molecules and keep the packaging environment free of moisture.
Applications of Silica Gel in the food and beverage industry
Silica gel finds numerous applications within the food and beverage (F&B) industry due to its various advantages. In this industry, silica gel is mostly used for:
- Desiccant for Packaging: Silica gel packets are commonly found in various food products, such as jerky, dried fruits, and certain condiments. They help to absorb excess moisture, preventing the growth of microorganisms and maintaining the product's texture, flavor, and quality.
- Chocolate and Confectionery: Silica gel is employed in the chocolate and confectionery industry to prevent the formation of sugar bloom, which occurs when moisture causes sugar crystals to migrate to the surface of the chocolate, resulting in a dull appearance and altered texture. Silica gel helps maintain the desired texture and appearance of chocolates.
- Medicinal and Edible Salt Packets: Silica gel packets are sometimes added to containers of medicinal or edible salts to prevent clumping caused by moisture absorption.
- Seeds and Horticulture: Silica gel can be used to extend the viability and germination rate of stored seeds. They are also used in seed banks and horticulture applications to maintain seed quality.
- Beverage Packaging: Silica gel can be used in the packaging of powdered beverages, such as instant coffee and powdered tea. It helps prevent clumping and ensures that the powder remains free-flowing.
Oxygen Absorbers For Food Packaging
Oxygen absorbers work like food preservatives – they enhance the shelf life of food and help them stay high quality for longer. They are crucial in stopping decay from the oxygen in the packaging environment acting on the food products. Oxygen facilitates the growth of spoilage bacteria and oxygen absorbers act against it, thus keeping the food items fresh for longer.
Oxygen absorbers offer a significant advantage by preserving the taste, visual appeal, and aroma of different food items.
Oxygen Absorbers – Two Main Types
Type B and Type D absorbers are the two primary types of oxygen absorbers used for food storage. To function properly, Type B absorbers need some moisture from the food they are packed with, such as partially dried dry fruits.
On the other hand, Type D absorbers are appropriate for drier materials because they do not require external moisture to activate and can do so more quickly.
Type B absorbers can last for about a year, whereas Type D absorbers expire after six months.
Oxygen absorber packets contain iron powder, which when combined with oxygen, absorbs more oxygen out of the air. Due to their capacity to stop spoiling food, maintain freshness, and increase the shelf life of food and medical items, these packets have a wide range of applications.
- Grains and Cereals: Grains and cereals are susceptible to infestation by pests and insects, especially in the presence of oxygen. Oxygen absorbers can create an oxygen-deficient environment that inhibits the growth of insects and extends the shelf life of these products.
- Spices and Seasonings: Spices and seasonings contain volatile compounds that can deteriorate due to exposure to oxygen. Oxygen absorbers can help maintain the potency, flavor, and aroma of these ingredients.
- Processed Meats: Oxygen absorbers are used in the packaging of processed meats like jerky and sausage to prevent oxidative rancidity and spoilage, thus extending the products' shelf life.
- Dairy Products: Oxygen absorbers can be used in the packaging of powdered dairy products like powdered milk or powdered cheese to prevent oxidation and maintain the quality of these items.
Silica Gel VS Oxygen Absorbers
Silica gel and oxygen absorbers are both popular food preservers used for packing the quality and freshness of diverse food products. Let’s mark the main differences between them.
1. Composition: Oxygen Absorbers usually contain iron fillings, clay, and salt. When these ingredients come in contact with air, they absorb oxygen from the atmosphere. Silica gel packets contain silicon dioxide and act as a moisture absorber, thus keeping items dry and fresh.
2. Usage: Oxygen Absorbers are used to preserve and store food items by eliminating oxygen, which prevents spoilage and helps in pest control. However, Silica Gel reduces humidity in the packaging environment, protecting items from moisture damage and mold growth.
3. Reusability: Oxygen Absorbers are of one-time use after activating them for some time. Silica Gel can be reactivated with heat, and therefore, is cost-effective in the long run.
4. Compatibility: silica gel and oxygen absorbers have distinct roles in preserving products, they are often used together to address both moisture and oxygen-related concerns. The choice between the two, or the decision to use both, depends on the specific needs of the product and its packaging requirements.
5. Safety for food packaging: Oxygen Absorbers are effective for preserving nuts, grains, dry fruits, and other food items. For food packaging, only food-grade silica gel is safe.
Silica Gel or Oxygen Absorber Packets – Which Is Better?
Even though oxygen absorbers and silica gel have different functions, they are both essential for packing and preservation. In order to select the right desiccant between the two, each of their properties have to be considered.
Sorbead India is one of the biggest Manufacture and distributors of silica gel desiccant packs, and oxygen absorbers that can be utilized in both vacuum-sealed and manual-sealed packaging. The latter absorbs 98% of the oxygen from the product without losing out on nutritional value.