Pasteurisation is assuming a greater prominence in processing and preservation as a result of the higher demand for minimally processed products.
During hot fill of pasteruised products, the heat released by the product can contribute to a pasteurisation effect on the package.
Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association Group (CCFRA) told FoodProductionDaily.com that the goal of the project is to determine whether the package does not need to be treated with the same level of process as the food produce.
The research group said that while the requirements for pasteurization of acid or acidified products are well understood, there is little guidance on the amount of pasteurisation that should be delivered to packs containing hot-fill produce.
CCFRA claims that the potential benefits for processors would be significant energy and cost savings but cautioned that the project is only at the early stage of a three year evaluation of packaging and microbial flora.
CCFRA said it is also undertaking another study into the use of biodegradable materials in food packaging, as the drive for sustainability means increased interest amongst consumers for greener packaging.
Bioplastics, which are often produced from renewable sources, are being increasingly sought by food processors as part of a solution to environmental concerns over waste and fossil fuels use.
The objective of the research, said the UK group, is to provide environmentally-conscious food producers with guidelines and reassurance regarding the compatibility of the materials with food and other pertinent factors such as their functionality, consumer usability and safety.
The project will assess analytical measurements to determine migration of specific compounds from biodegradable materials, according to CCFRA.
The researchers added that the project will also include a published review covering a description of the materials, suppliers and food packaging applications that have reached the market.
A study, published by UK-based market analysts Applied Market Information (AMI) in April, claims that the market for bioplastics remained small, not least because of a lack of facilities to ensure that the packaging can be recycled or composted properly.
"Less than one per cent of global polymers are currently classified as compostable bioplastics according to the European EN 13432 standard," AMI analyst Chris Noble told FoodProductionDaily.com.
"This means that plastics have to completely biodegrade into harmless microscopic fragments within 90 days. However, the standard allows for this to take place within ideal composting conditions, such as industrial composting facilities where the materials are heated to high temperatures in order to accelerate the composting process."
"Obviously, these materials will take much longer to compost in a home composting environment, and critics argue there isn't a sufficiently well developed network of industrial composting facilities in, for example, the UK to justify investment in these materials," he added.