One of the design points of a packaging solution is to protect it from external factors, especially in terms of protecting against harmful light.
Harmful light not only causes degradation of many light-sensitive components that are vital to human health and function, but also shortens the shelf life of the product.
Product spoilage leads to increased costs, and special requirements for the storage and transportation of these products have also led to an increase in supply chain costs.
As a result, manufacturers are eager to find packaging solutions that can mitigate or prevent the effects of light on sensitive product components.
Why is light destructive to certain food ingredients?
Some light in the ultraviolet and visible range can cause selective damage to many chemicals.
For example, ultraviolet light can accelerate the degradation of some medical products, especially vitamins and antibiotics, which may decompose, discolor and lose efficacy when exposed to ultraviolet light, and even turn into harmful and toxic substances.
In other cases, UV light also accelerates the aging of some nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition, anti-aging ingredients in cosmetics are particularly sensitive to light in the 380 nm wavelength range and may decompose and fail rapidly when exposed to sunlight.
Therefore, the storage method and application environment are decisive factors for the efficacy of products in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
There is evidence that light has a powerful degrading effect on vitamin E components in tablets of specific medical products.
Therefore, packaging manufacturers either introduce opaque packaging materials or use other innovative methods to reduce the damage.
Method one - increase the external packaging
A common practice for effective light protection is to add outer packaging to the outside of the glass bottle. The outer box has a buffering function to prevent damage to the bottle during transportation, and its opacity can block all light, protect the components in the bottle, and prevent adverse effects caused by light exposure.
Method 2 - use opaque container materials
Many container bottles are opaque white in which the white pigment reflects or absorbs more than 90% of the light, significantly reducing the occurrence of photodamage.
Method 1 and Method 2 prevent light from entering the package through opaque materials. However, these methods are limited in some applications, such as infusion catheters. In these applications, the material must be transparent to visually inspect the bubbles in the solution in the catheter and whether it is flowing properly.
Some cosmetic brands want to show customers the products in the package to reflect the appeal and aesthetics of the product. When opaque or colored materials are used and the colorant is incorporated into the plastic, this causes a problem in that these colorants migrate. This migration raises concerns if it passes through the inner layer of the packaging material and into the nutrient itself.
Regulatory checks on colorants and other additives are required to ensure they do not harm the human body. Due to the dangers caused by the migration of colorants, many* have issued regulations to perform specific tests on colorant migration.
This is especially true in China, where regulations in this area are more stringent than those in Asia. Therefore, packaging manufacturers need to find alternative packaging design methods that can meet regulatory requirements.
The opaque properties of the packaged product are also limited in nutritional medicine applications as this will prevent the clinician from seeing the contents. For example, a doctor must see the flow of liquid in the tube and infusion bag to ensure that the right amount of liquid is being administered to the body.
* The transparency requirements of these products limit the design and colorants that can be used for packaging materials.
There are two other production methods available today that enable manufacturers to take advantage of transparent packaging.
Method 3 - Adding a photoprotectant directly to the product
Food grade anti-aging agents can be added directly to specific foods to provide *protection without affecting the production process, taste and color.
But not all such products have food or pharmaceutical grades. Even with these grades, some of them have an impact on the color and fluidity of the product. Although they have been shown to have no adverse effects on health, anti-photoaging agents are not welcomed by consumers.
Method 4 - Use specific packaging materials
Selectively blocking some of the unfavorable light foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics while maintaining transparency is only sensitive to light of a particular wavelength. Therefore, if the wavelength is blocked, effective protection can be provided.
In addition, since other wavelengths are not blocked, a certain transparency can be maintained. For example, if light at a wavelength of 430-450 nm (blue light) is blocked, the transmitted light will be a blue complementary color, yellow, showing a clear yellow color. In this method, depending on the blocked light, the package color and transparency will differ.
The following are two examples of color shielded light screening solutions.
1. The medicinal ingredients enter the human body through the medical infusion system to treat diseases. Infusion fluids are usually composed of many medicinal ingredients and are usually stored in hospital pharmacies and stored in opaque packaging cartons. Once opened and added to the infusion bottle, they are exposed to light for 1-2 hours, during which time some of the medicinal ingredients (especially bioactive drugs) may degrade or have varying degrees of failure.
Adding 2% photoprotective concentrate masterbatch during production not only meets FDA's pharmaceutical grade requirements, but also provides protection against light exposure.
The infusion system is also transparent, so the physician can clearly see the flow of the liquid, allowing them to control the flow rate in time.
2. The bottle filled with edible oil is made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate). PET is a thermoplastic with the desired clarity and oil resistance.
Edible oils usually contain unsaturated fatty acids (also known as polyenoic acids). Unsaturated fatty acids are a major component of many nutritional combinations (such as Omega-3) and essential elements of oils.
However, it is susceptible to damage and deterioration of light from 350–420 nm in the sun. Therefore, under normal circumstances, the shelf life of bottled oil is about 1 year.
Adding 2% light-shielding masterbatch to PET bottles allows the bottle to shield light from 350–420 nm in sunlight, with a shielding ratio of over 90% and increase the life of unsaturated fatty acids to more than two years.
to sum up
Oxidative degradation of health and food ingredients has received increasing attention. Not only is the cost increased due to shortened shelf life and increased damage, but more importantly, it may pose risks to human health and well-being.
Therefore, we need to face the need to prevent or slow down oxidative degradation, and to design a package that blocks light from contacting its contents. This direction is clear, and although there are multiple solutions available on the market, we have found some solutions to be limited.
A color masterbatch containing a light-shielding additive that reduces the penetration of light at specific wavelengths while maintaining transparency of the finished product
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