Microbial control by packaging: a review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2002 Mar;42(2):151-61. doi: 10.1080/10408690290825493.


Since early man first used a variety of natural containers to store and eat foods, significant developments in food packaging materials have provided the means to suppress microbial growth as well as protect foods from external microbial contamination. Throughout this progression, packaging materials have been developed specifically to prevent the deterioration of foods resulting from exposure to air, moisture, or pH changes associated with the food or the surrounding atmosphere. Both flexible and rigid packaging materials, alone or in combination with other preservation methods, have been developed to offer the necessary barrier, inactivation, and containment properties required for successful food packaging. Examples of flexible packaging used to inactivate microorganisms associated with foods include controlled atmosphere, vacuum, modified atmosphere, active, and edible packaging. Additionally, the combination of rigid packaging materials made from metal, glass, or plastic with heat provides the most effective and widely used method for inactivating microorganisms. As with all food products, it is necessary to integrate a HACCP-based program to assure quality throughout the packaging operation. In addition to packaging improvements, other novel technologies include the development of detectors for oxygen levels, bacterial toxins, and microbial growth, or the integration of time-temperature indicators for detection of improper handling or storage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Packaging* / instrumentation
  • Food Packaging* / methods
  • Food Preservation*
  • Food Technology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxygen
  • Permeability
  • Water


  • Water
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen