I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow up your bags of potato chips with science!

Oxidation. Free radicals. Antioxidants. And the practical science tips that potato chips packaging design offers.

 

Keeping potato chips fresh through an understanding of the science of oxidation and design1-Minute NomNom

How do you like your potato chips? Crunchy and crispy, if you are like me! To keep them that way, we have to make sure the chips do not become rancid from oxidation.

Packaging design of potato chips bags helps to cut down oxidationOxidation happens because  fats and oils have very reactive atoms or groups of atoms with lone electrons called free radicals that react with oxygen.  But where do these free radicals come from in the first place? They are…

“…initially formed by the loss of a hydrogen atom from a… fatty acid*… induced by ultraviolet light and heat.”  (Source: Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering, Vol 2) *fatty acids are “building blocks of fats”

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Once released, these reactive free radicals will set off a chain reaction, generating more free radicals and reacting with oxygen (if present).Opaque bags cuts down UV that can induce the free radical reactions that lead to oxidation and rancidity - SWINDON, UK - APRIL 13, 2014: Three packets of Walkers crisps isolated on a white background. Walkers is a British snack food manufacturerThis is where the potato chips packaging comes in. They are opaque and blown up with nitrogen to reduce exposure to oxygen, and to block out ultraviolet light. The nitrogen also acts as an insulator against temperature changes that might induce free radical formation (read the details in the 1-Minute NomNom “Blowing up the bags of potato chips was no oxidant“). 

The only way to stop the free radical reaction is to use antioxidants which work “sacrificially by donating a hydrogen atom to the reactive free radical and regenerating the original molecule“, thus terminating the chain reaction.  Otherwise the chain reaction will be endless, and that is bad news for the storing of our food. 

How we keep potato chips from turning rancid can also be how we keep peanut butter from undergoing oxidation

Peanut butter jars can also be flushed with nitrogen gas before they are sealed to prevent oxidation

Understanding the science behind potato chips packaging design offers tips on we can prevent our foods with oils and fats such as peanut butter from going bad.

Firstly, we can “flush the headspace on peanut butter jars” with nitrogen gas. Secondly, we can keep them airtight to minimize exposure to oxygen. Thirdly, store them in dark containers and away from light. Lastly, do not wait too long to consume them; they are so yummi-licious anyway, what are you waiting for?

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.02.39 pm

Like this? Set off a chain reaction for knowledge liking me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – depositphotos/belchonockrozelturbanbuzzbelchonock

ORIGINAL ====

1-Minute NomNom

How do you like your potato chips? Crunchy and crispy, if you are like me! To keep them that way, the puffy bags they are in have been designed to prevent the chips from becoming rancid from oxidation.

Packaging design of potato chips bags helps to cut down oxidationThey are opaque and blown up with nitrogen to reduce exposure to oxygen, light and temperature that can trigger oxidation (read an overview in the 1-Minute NomNom “Blowing up the bags of potato chips was no oxidant“).


Reducing Oxygen Exposure

To understand the science behind why the design works, we start with an easy way to remember what oxidation is: the University of California suggests that we think of it as “adding… oxygen to a compound“.

Filling the bags of potato chips with nitrogen reduces free radical reactions and in turn oxidationFats and oils have very reactive atoms or groups of atoms with lone electrons called free radicals. When exposed to oxygen, their…

“… unsaturated components are converted into hydroperoxides, which break down into volatile aldehydes, esters, alcohols, ketones, and hydrocarbons, some of which have disagreeable odours.” (Source: Encycolopaedia Britannica

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This is where filling the bags of potato chips with nitrogen is useful. There is not only no exposure to oxygen, nitrogen is also an inert gas (i.e. chemically inactive) that does not react with the free radicals.

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Reducing Oxygen Exposure

But where do these free radicals come from in the first place? They are…

“…initially formed by the loss of a hydrogen atom from a… fatty acid*… induced by ultraviolet light and heat.”  (Source: Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering, Vol 2) *fatty acids are “building blocks of fats”

Opaque bags cuts down UV that can induce the free radical reactions that lead to oxidation and rancidity - SWINDON, UK - APRIL 13, 2014: Three packets of Walkers crisps isolated on a white background. Walkers is a British snack food manufacturerOnce released, these reactive free radicals will set off a chain reaction, generating more free radicals and reacting with oxygen (if present). This is where the opaque packaging helps to block out ultraviolet light. The nitrogen in the bags also acts as an insulator against temperature changes that might induce free radical formation.


Antioxidants

The only way to stop the free radical reaction is to use antioxidants which work “sacrificially by donating a hydrogen atom to the reactive free radical and regenerating the original molecule“, thus terminating the chain reaction.  Otherwise the chain reaction will be endless, and that is bad news for the storing of our food. 

How we keep potato chips from turning rancid can also be how we keep peanut butter from undergoing oxidation

Peanut butter jars can also be flushed with nitrogen gas before they are sealed to prevent oxidation

Understanding the science behind potato chips packaging design offers tips on we can prevent our foods with oils and fats such as peanut butter and other types of crisps from going bad. Firstly, we can “flush the headspace on peanut butter jars” with nitrogen gas. Secondly, we can keep them airtight to minimize exposure to oxygen. Thirdly, store them in dark containers and away from light. Lastly, do not wait too long to consume them; they are so yummi-licious anyway, what are you waiting for?

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.02.39 pm

Like this? Set off a chain reaction for knowledge liking me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – depositphotos/belchonock;winterling ;rozelt/urbanbuzzbelchonock

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