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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Modified Atmosphere Packaging Analysis

supermarket with foodThe normal gaseous composition of air is nitrogen (N2) 78.08% (volume per volume), oxygen (O2) 20.96% and carbon dioxide (CO2) 0.03%, together with variable concentrations of water vapour and traces of inert or noble gases.

Many foods spoil rapidly in air due to moisture loss or uptake, reaction with oxygen and the growth of aerobic microorganisms. Microbial growth results in changes in texture, colour, flavour and nutritional value of the food. These changes can make food unpalatable and potentially unsafe for human consumption. Storage of foods in a modified gaseous atmosphere can maintain quality and extend product shelf life, by slowing chemical and biochemical deteriorative reactions and by slowing (potentially preventing) the growth of spoilage organisms.

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is defined as ‘the packaging of a perishable product in an atmosphere which has been modified so that its composition is other than that of air’ (Hintlian and Hotchkiss, 1986). The three main gases used in modified atmosphere packaging are O2, CO2, and N2. The choice of gas or mixture of gases is very dependent upon the food product being packed.

NMI’s Capabilities

NMI has developed a gas chromatography method for analysis of MAP and other gases in food packaging.

Analyte Limits of reporting (ppmv)​
Carbon monoxide (CO)​ 500​
Carbon dioxide (CO2)​ 500​
Hydrogen (H2)​ 500​
Nitrogen (N2 2 000​
Oxygen (O2)​ 2 000​


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