Munich - A new school year is beginning in Germany. Around 700,000 children will gain their first experience of education. A healthy diet, breaktime refreshments and, first and foremost, the quality of breaktime snacks will once again become important concerns for families everywhere. TÜV SÜD provides information on the advantages and disadvantages of various types of packaging for breaktime food.
A tasty, varied breaktime snack makes the school day pass more cheerfully and provides a further reason to look forward to breaks. But freshness and hygiene are always paramount, and keeping snacks fresh throughout the morning is quite a challenge for parents. Fruit, highly recommended by nutritional experts, tends to turn an off-putting shade of brown; veggie burgers dry out, and lettuce quickly goes limp. So how can food be kept appetising, fresh and hygienic until the mid-morning break?
The right type of packaging material depends on the food that is being packed. There are many different options for packing foods – but not all of them are suitable for every foodstuff.
Aluminium foil: Tinfoil stands up well to heat and cold and is therefore suitable for bread and baked goods, but also for fried or roasted food. The metal foil effectively retains the taste and moisture of the food over several hours without the need for refrigeration. As the most impermeable packaging material available for home use, aluminium foil delivers the best protection of food against exposure to oxygen, and the changes in flavour and colour that oxidization brings. However, aluminium foil is less suitable for moist, acidic, alkaline or salty foods like cut fruit, gherkins, tomatoes, cured ham or pretzel-type products. When the metal foil comes into contact with these foods, aluminium ions may dissolve out of the foil and enter the food – a very undesirable extra.
Greaseproof paper: By its very nature, paper is not effective at protecting food from oxidation, temperature or light. It also absorbs moisture quickly, which impairs the flavour of the snack. However, paper is useful for relatively dry foods such as crispbread with topping or sandwiches made from wholegrain bread; it is able to offer short-term protection of such foods from external influences and loss of flavour.
Clingfilm: The packaging of choice for foods with a relatively high water or fat content, this plastic wrap keeps cold cuts, cheese and cut fruit fresh for longer. However, clingfilm is permeable for oxygen and odours; after two to three days, food wrapped in it shows loss of quality.
Plastic or metal boxes: Rugged, impact-proof containers protect breaktime snacks from being squashed in the bottom of a school bag, and also keep unhygienic conditions (e.g. dirt in the school bag) at bay. Lunchboxes of plastic or metal are particularly useful for storing cold cuts, cheese, fruit and salads. However, condensation quickly forms, and the food ‘sweats’ easily in changes of temperature. Given this, include extra packaging for fruit and vegetables or add a paper serviette to the container.
Beverage packaging: Manufacturers have developed types of packaging for each product that are perfectly tailored to the beverage they contain. This is important for, say, milk and milk-based drinks, mineral water or fruit juice spritzers. Manufacturers’ packaging offers good protection against oxygen, humidity and light. Comprehensive catalogues of packaging rules ensure that the beverages are also protected against degeneration of the packaging elements. If consumers decide to use their own bottles or flasks for transporting beverages, the containers must be meticulously cleaned every day they are used.
Some important points for parents to remember:
- Pay attention to choosing the correct packaging for breaktime snacks and sandwiches. Freshness is paramount for retaining appetising flavor.
- Plastic or metal lunchboxes protect snacks from damage in school bags and also keep them hygienic throughout the morning.
- Depending on the contents of the lunchbox, foods may need to be packaged in different types of material before they go into the box. Aluminium foil is a no-no for certain foods.
- Drinks should preferably be in the original packaging; if they are repackaged at home, the bottle or flask used must be scrupulously clean.