VERNON HILLS, IL, Dec. 12 - Tetra Pak, a manufacturer of food processing and packaging equipment, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted the use of its linear aseptic filling technology for HDPE bottles at one of its customer's dairy food plants. As a result, the company notes that its U.S. customers can now fill low-acid dairy products such as milk, infant formulas, nutritional drinks into HDPE containers and distribute them without the need for refrigeration.
The new aseptic HDPE containers are lighter in weight and more flexible in shape, size and design than the metal and glass containers now used to package low-acid dairy products, says Tetra Pak. The packages also open up new non-refrigerated distribution channels for dairy products, the company adds, including convenience stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, and vending machines.
Aseptic packaging of dairy products is common in Europe but has never caught on in the U.S. because of the wide availability of refrigeration in that market. But Tetra Pak - along with rival HDPE aseptic packaging developer Stork Food and Dairy Systems, Gainsville, GA - have been working with partners for several years to meet FDA's safety and efficacy requirements so that they can tap the potential of non-refrigerated packaging outlets.
Unlike traditional canning, aseptic packaging methods heat-sterilize a liquid food or beverage outside the container before it is filled. Tetra Pak has been testing its aseptic filling technology, dubbed Tetra Plast LFA-20, on multilayer extrusion blow-molded HDPE bottles at the Joplin, MO, dairy food plant of its customer, Jasper Products. According to Tetra Pak, the filling equipment is a linear machine capable of filling 12,000 bottles/hour and possesses an "extremely small" internal sterile chamber said to reduce a customer's investment and operational costs, make the machine easier to operate, and ensure high efficiency. Other claimed features of the equipment are an integrated cleaning-in-place mechanism, filling nozzles that do not contact the package, and a production line system that handles bottles only by the neck.
Earlier this year, the FDA approved the competing Stork aseptic filling technology for multilayer extrusion-blow molded HDPE bottles. The Stork system, which can fill up to 300 bottles/min, uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize the bottles before filling.
Tetra Pak aseptic HDPE packaging system is already operating in Argentina and Turkey, notes Jeff Kellar, the company's vice president of marketing. In addition to its newer plastic aseptic packaging, Tetra Pak has long had a business in aseptically filled paperboard cartons.