When processed food is exposed to oxygen, it deteriorates - oils go rancid, discoloration occurs and the food spoils. Oxygen can be removed from the packaging by removing all of the air with a vacuum, which will increase the shelf life of the food packed inside.
Regular vacuum packaging works fine for sturdy solid foods like beef jerky and fresh meat, but it doesn't work well for foods that are delicate, like snack chips and crackers. These foods need protection so they don't get destroyed during transportation, so food manufacturers use nitrogen flushing and sealing machines to force the regular air out of the packaging and inject nitrogen gas into the packaging.
Nitrogen doesn't react with food like oxygen does, so foods stay fresher longer and it doesn't affect the flavor or texture of the food. And since the nitrogen fills up the bag, it helps to protect the delicate foods inside. Of course, once you open the bag, the food is no longer protected and will start to deteriorate; however you can maintain some of the freshness by keeping the package closed with a twist tie or clip, or by placing the food in a resealable container.
Learn More About Food Safety and Preservation
- One way to kill bugs and bacteria is with radiation. Learn more: What is Food Irradiation?.
- If you're concerned about avoiding bisphenol A, which is found in some plastic products, I can help: Best Products for Avoiding Bisphenol A.
- Sodium is everywhere, or at least it seems like it? Why is There So Much Sodium in Processed Foods?
- When you read ingredients lists on food labels, you might find BHA and BHT. What are they? Food Preservatives: BHA and BHT.