The CO2 emitter is placed inside packaging for fresh meats and releases the gas as it absorbs moisture, which helps preserve the product for longer, the centre said.
The research organisation hopes it will replace the old method of filling packaging space with CO2 for preservation, known as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), Dr Ådland Hansen, Nofima scientist told FoodNavigator.
It is also hoped it will take over from standard moisture-absorbent pads in perishable foods.
“A CO2 emitter acts as an inhibiter of bacterial growth. So long as you supply enough CO2 you prevent the growth of bacteria in the product,” Dr Hansen said.
“However, you can’t just throw in any CO2 emitter. It must release the proper amount of gas to optimise shelf life.”
The emitter has so far been tested on packaged fresh cod and has proven to extend shelf life by up to four extra days compared with traditional MAP. The pad kept cod fish fresh for two more days than vacuum packs.
It could also be used for other fresh packaged products “[such as] fresh chicken breast, fresh salmon and other fresh meats that easily get spoilt according to the microbiology,” Dr Hansen said.
Nofima is now running a range of tests for companies to adapt the pad for their products and looking into how it extends shelf life, including for other fresh fish, seafood products and chicken meat.
“We have been cooperating with Vartdal Plast, but also we cooperate with other companies,” she added.
Dr Hansen said there are two manufacturers believed to be already marketing products with the CO2 emitter.
Large parts of the funding for development of the CO2 emitter comes from the Research Council of Norway, Dr Hansen added.
Replacing MAP packaging could be beneficial for several reasons, including taking up less packaging space meaning more products can be transported with less gas while still maintaining shelf life, Dr Hansen told us.
Environmentally speaking, the emitter could be beneficial since it does not need large space around MAP products to include preserving gases means less packing for the same amount of produce.
“We do a lot of work in reduction of food waste,” Dr Hansen added, noting: “This packaging technology is very good on helping reduce food waste because it preserves quality and increases chance of eating the food.”
Food waste reduction has been a big focus in Europe in recent years, with the EU REFRESH project aiming to cut food waste by 30% in 2025.
Nofima is not the only company looking at greener packaged meat preservation methods. US-based ingredients manufacturer Kemin released a natural plant-based shelf-life extender earlier this year.