Title:
THERMOPLASTIC PACKAGING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a food containment system comprising at least one container including a primary receptacle and one or more secondary receptacles. The food containment system further comprising at least one lid attached to the at least one container and enclosing the primary and secondary receptacles, wherein the primary receptacle includes a primary food and the one or more secondary receptacles include a secondary food. Method for packaging the containers described above is also contemplated.



Inventors:
Aronson, Jack (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
Aronson, Annette (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
Latella, Anthony S. (Clinton Township, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/757663
Publication Date:
03/13/2008
Filing Date:
06/04/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/501, 206/514
International Classes:
B65D1/36; B65D21/032; B65D21/04; A23L11/00; A23L19/00; A23L27/00; A23L27/60
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090308879METHOD OF DISTRIBUTING BEERDecember, 2009Johnson Jr.
20050189353Tamper-resistant sealing system between container and lidSeptember, 2005Padovani
20050155974Drinking vessel designed to incorporate an alcoholic beverage containerJuly, 2005Amron
20070275295Battery container having cruciform vent and coverNovember, 2007Ray et al.
20090001088MOUNTABLE RECYCLE CONTAINERJanuary, 2009Lamendola et al.
20080128428Container with removable dividerJune, 2008Beckerman
20040195248Liquid applicator and container systemOctober, 2004Garcia
20040007573Double cup separable into upper and lower sectionsJanuary, 2004Kang
20080245790Container for holding elastic loops thereinOctober, 2008Mesika
20050127079Can with fold lines, method and device for production thereofJune, 2005Grabher
20090283082FAST-LOAD LID ASSEMBLY FOR PAINTBALLNovember, 2009Newman et al.



Primary Examiner:
SMITH, CHAIM A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DOBRUSIN & THENNISCH PC (29 W LAWRENCE ST, SUITE 210, PONTIAC, MI, 48342, US)
Claims:
1. A food containment system comprising: at least one container, the at least one container including: a primary receptacle; and one or more secondary receptacles; at least one lid attached to the at least one container and enclosing the primary and secondary receptacles, wherein: i. the primary receptacle includes a primary food; and ii. the one or more secondary receptacles include a secondary food.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary food comprises chickpeas.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein the primary food is hummus.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary food comprises fresh tomato sections.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the primary food is a salsa.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the primary food is selected from a salad dressing, a dip, a guacamole, or any combination thereof.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the secondary food includes one or more ingredients selected from garlic, black peppers, cayenne peppers, green peppers, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, chili peppers, poblano peppers, cayenne pepper, Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, avocadoes, black beans, red beans, white beans, pine nuts, soybean, eggplants, garbanzo beans, sesame tahini, artichokes, onions, sundried tomatoes, salt, cane sugar, cilantro, carrots celery, parsley, basil, cumin, peaches, spinach, dill, corn, vinegar, water, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, limes, lemons, pineapples, apricots, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, mangos, olives, potatoes, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise or cheese.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein at least two of the ingredients are organically produced.

9. The system of claim 7, wherein at least one of the primary food and the secondary food consist essentially of natural ingredients.

10. The system of claim 7, wherein the secondary food includes roasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, roasted red peppers, spicy cilantro, or combinations thereof.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the at least one container includes a first container defining the primary receptacle and a second container separate from the first container defining the one or more secondary receptacles.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein the one or more secondary receptacles includes a first receptacle having a first height and a second receptacle having a second height, wherein the first height is different from the second height.

13. The system of claim 11, wherein the first container is positioned above the second container, the first container is positioned below the second container, or the first container an the second container are positioned side-by-side with one another.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein the first container includes a first lid and the second container includes a second lid for enclosing the primary and secondary receptacles.

15. The system of claim 11, wherein either the first container or the second container is at least partially disposed within the other component.

16. The system of claim 1, wherein the one or more secondary containers includes a first receptacle having one or more secondary foods and wherein the primary food has about 150% greater volume than the volume of the one or more secondary foods included in the first receptacle.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the primary food has about 200% greater volume than the volume of the one or more secondary foods included in the first receptacle.

18. The system of claim 17, wherein the primary food has about 70% greater volume than the volume of the one or more secondary foods included in the first receptacle.

19. The system of claim 1, wherein the at least one container is formed of a thermoplastic polymer and a nanoparticle including an element exhibiting anti-microbial activity, or an alloy or compound of the element, selected from silver, gold, platinum, palladium, iridium, zinc, magnesium, tin, copper, antimony, or bismuth.

20. The system of claim 19, wherein the at least one container is formed by blow molding, injection molding, rotational molding, thermoforming, rotational extruding, die cutting, vacuum forming, or any combination thereof.

21. The system of claim 19, wherein the thermoplastic polymer is polyethylene terephthalate.

22. The system of claim 19, wherein the mean particle size of the nanoparticles of the nanoparticle filler ranges from about 1 to about 10 nm.

23. The system of claim 1, further comprising a protective layer over at least a portion of the at least one container.

24. The system of claim 23, wherein the protective layer is a plastic film, a plastic sheet, or both.

25. The system of claim 1, further comprising at least one label.

26. The method of claim 25, wherein the at least one label is affixed to the at least one container by dry transfer labeling, hot stamping, thermal labeling, screen printing, pad printing or any combination thereof.

27. The system of claim 25, wherein the at least one label includes nutrition labeling.

28. A food containment system comprising: a first container including a primary receptacle a second container including one or more secondary receptacles; a primary lid attached to the second container and enclosing the one or more secondary receptacles, wherein: i. the primary receptacle includes a primary food; ii. the one or more secondary receptacles include a secondary food; and iii. the second container is at least partially disposed within the first container.

29. The system of claim 28, wherein the primary food includes chickpeas.

30. The system of claim 29, wherein the primary food is hummus.

31. The system of claim 28, wherein the secondary food includes one or more ingredients selected from garlic, black peppers, cayenne peppers, green peppers, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, chili peppers, poblano peppers, cayenne pepper, Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, avocadoes, black beans, red beans, white beans, pine nuts, soybean, eggplants, garbanzo beans, sesame tahini, artichokes, onions, sundried tomatoes, salt, cane sugar, cilantro, carrots celery, parsley, basil, cumin, peaches, spinach, dill, corn, vinegar, water, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, limes, lemons, pineapples, apricots, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, mangos, olives, potatoes, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise or cheese.

32. The system of claim 31, wherein the secondary food i s roasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, roasted red peppers, or spicy cilantro.

33. The system of claim 28, wherein the first container and the second container are engageable with one another for enclosing the first container.

34. The system of claim 33, wherein the at least one lid is engageable with the second container for enclosing the second container.

35. The system of claim 31 wherein one or more primary foods or the one or more secondary foods comprises an oil based food that is at least about 10% by weight and the other comprises a water based food that is at least about 10% by weight.

Description:

CLAIM OF PRIORITY

The present invention claims the benefit of the priority of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/824,821 filed Sep. 7, 2006, which is herein incorporated by reference for all purposes.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to thermoplastic packaging and more particularly to sealable storage containers employing a plurality of individual receptacles for separating foods and improving food product shelf life for transport to, and use by, the consumer.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There is an ever-growing need for improved packaging, particularly for foods, which are capable of maintaining product freshness for prolonged periods as well as providing point-of-sale packaging features to the consuming public to facilitate the mixture and preparation of food products at the time of consumption. This need can become quite important for fresh foods or comestible products, particularly those that are substantially free of added preservatives. It can be necessary to preserve product freshness in a sealed container for periods in excess of several days or even weeks from date of manufacture and filling of the container. Additionally, since consumer tastes and preferences differ among the general population, there is a need to provide product packaging, (e.g. point-of-purchase packaging), which allows the end consumer to select desired toppings, mixes or other accompanying food products based upon their tastes and preferences while still maintaining product freshness.

It is recognized with respect to conventional food containers, which relates to separation of ingredients of a food product, such as water, oils, or otherwise. This can be problematic not only for properly maintaining the freshness of multiple separated comestibles, but it can also be problematic to design packaging that can inhibit leakage through the seal or sealable area. Accordingly, there remains a need for separating ingredients that may not mix well and/or when mixed together, decrease the shelf life of the food product.

Recent years have seen the increase in the use of nanoparticles in containers. See, e.g., U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2004/0142132, incorporated by reference. Nanoclays have been incorporated in some families of plastics. See, e.g., U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2006/0009556. Mineralized ash as a plastic filler is disclosed in U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2004/0266933, incorporated by reference. Packaging that includes nanoparticles also have been described. See, e.g., U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2005/0224425, incorporated by reference. The use of certain metals for antimicrobial properties is discussed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,928,174; 6,355,858; 6,365,220; 6,605,751; 6,719,987; 6,897,349; and 6,989,157, all incorporated by reference. An antimicrobial silicone rubber including silver nanoparticles is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,822,034. There remains a need for alternative economical approaches to plastic packaging, particularly using materials that employ nanoparticles.

Based on the above, there exists a need for a food product container that can accommodate several separated food products, can increase product shelf life, or both.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention meets the above needs by providing an improved approach to the manufacture of packaging and the processing and storage of articles, particularly fresh foods and their accompanying selection and choices of toppings, ingredients, mixes, etc. Additionally or alternatively, the present invention is directed to a method for packaging an article, comprising the steps of dispersing in a matrix of, or otherwise contacting with a thermoplastic polymer (and particularly a polymer selected from polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene, polypropylene or any combination thereof), a nanoparticle including an element, or an alloy or compound of an antimicrobial, and particularly an element selected from silver, gold, platinum, palladium, iridium, zinc, magnesium, tin, copper, antimony, or bismuth.

In one aspect, the present invention provides a packaged food article comprising at least one container having a primary receptacle and one or more secondary receptacles, at least one lid attached to the at least one container and enclosing the primary and secondary receptacles. Typically, the primary receptacle includes a primary food and the one or more secondary receptacles include a secondary food.

In another aspect, the present invention provides a first container including one or more receptacles, a second container including one or more receptacles, and at least one primary lid attached to the first container, the second container, or both. The first and second containers can each include one or more primary receptacles, one or more secondary receptacles, or a combination thereof. Preferably, the primary lid encloses the one or more receptacles, the first receptacle, or both. It is can also be desirable for the primary receptacle to include a primary food and the one or more secondary receptacles to include one or more secondary foods. It is also contemplated that the second container can be at least partially disposed within the first container.

Accordingly, the present invention can provide a food container or packaging having or integrating a plurality of compartments for the placement, storage, and transport of comestible food products for use with other comestible food products by the end consumer. It is contemplated that the packaging of the present invention provides at least one, and preferably, a multiplicity of sealable containers or individual receptacles of varying dimension, size, and volume suitable for receiving and containing food products. The containers or individual receptacles of the present invention are used to contain, store, preserve and transport food or comestible products selected from a multiplicity of ingredients, toppings, mixes, etc. as product packaging and point-of-purchase merchandise for sale or distribution to the consumer, who selects a desired food of comestible product based upon individual taste, desire, or preference for mix and enjoyment by the consumer after purchase.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1a and 1b are plan views of one illustration of one embodiment according to the present invention.

FIGS. 2a and 2b are plan views of one illustration of another embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 3 and 3a are plan views of another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a plan view of another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a food containment system comprising at least one container including a primary receptacle and one or more secondary receptacles. The food containment system further comprises at least one lid attached to the at least one container and enclosing the primary and secondary receptacles. The primary receptacle typically includes a primary food and the one or more secondary receptacles typically include secondary foods.

Accordingly, it is contemplated that in one embodiment, the at least one container can include only one container having a primary receptacle and one or more secondary receptacles, such as one, two, three, four, five, or more receptacles. Preferably, the at least one container includes a first container having a primary receptacle and a second container having one or more secondary receptacles. In such an instance, the containers can be connected to each other and/or the containers can be separable from each other. Optionally, the first container or the second container can include a primary receptacle only, multiple primary receptacles, a mix of one or more primary receptacles, and one or more secondary receptacles. It is further contemplated that wherein the first container is separate from the second container, the first and second containers are positioned one above the other, side-by-side with one another, one within the other, or otherwise and are attached together.

In one embodiment, the primary receptacle includes a primary food that is a dip or sauce, such as a salsa, a salad dressing, a hummus, or a guacamole. Accordingly, to one embodiment, the primary food is a tomato-based product, or otherwise comprises peeled or unpeeled fresh tomato sections. In another particular embodiment, the primary food is a chickpea-based product, (e.g., hummus).

The one or more secondary receptacles can include one or more secondary foods or any combination of thereof selected from garlic, black peppers, cayenne peppers, green peppers, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, chili peppers, poblano peppers, cayenne pepper, Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, avocadoes, black beans, red beans, white beans, pine nuts, soybean, eggplants, garbanzo beans, sesame tahini, artichokes, onions, sundried tomatoes, salt, cane sugar, cilantro, carrots celery, parsley, basil, cumin, peaches, spinach, dill, corn, vinegar, water, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, limes, lemons, pineapples, apricots, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, mangos, olives, potatoes, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise or cheese. Preferably, there are one, two, three, four, or more secondary receptacles having one, two, three, four, or more secondary foods or any combination thereof selected form the ingredients described herein. More preferably, there are four secondary receptacles, each having a secondary food that is roasted pine nuts, garlic cloves, roasted red peppers, or spicy cilantro.

As mentioned above, the at least one container includes a primary receptacle and one or more secondary receptacles, wherein the primary receptacle includes a primary food and the one or more secondary receptacles include one or more secondary foods. Accordingly, the primary and secondary receptacles include a primary food and one or more secondary foods so as to define a volume of food in each receptacle. In particularly, the volume of the primary food or the primary receptacle is about 150%, respectively, of the volume of each of the one or more secondary foods or each of the one or more secondary receptacles. Preferably, the volume of the primary food or the primary receptacle is about 200%, respectively, of the volume of each of the one or more secondary foods or each of the one or more secondary receptacles. More preferably, the volume of the primary food or the primary receptacle is about 300%, respectively, of the volume of each of the one or more secondary foods or each of the one or more secondary receptacles.

It is further contemplated that the one or more primary foods and the one or more secondary foods may be mutually exclusive foods wherein the one or more of primary foods or the one or more secondary foods is an oil based food, while the other is a water based food. In particular, the one or more primary foods can be an oil based food that comprises an oil ingredient in at least about 10% by weight, preferably in at least about 20% by weight, or more preferably in at least about 30% by weight, the one or more secondary foods is a water based food that comprises water in at least about 10% by weight, preferably in at least about 20% by weight, or more preferably in at least about 30% by weight, or vice versus.

With reference to FIGS. 1a and 1b, examples of possible packages includes a first container 10, comprising a primary receptacle 11, a first bottom surface 12, an upstanding continuous side wall 14 that terminates at a first lip 16, and optionally includes a stack region 18. A lid 20 is also shown, which radially extends from the continuous sidewall 14. The first lid engages the lip about the periphery for generally sealing the package.

With reference to FIGS. 2a, 2b, 3a, and 3b further examples of possible packages include a second container 30. The second container comprises a top surface 32 interconnecting a plurality of downward extending perimeter walls 34 that define a plurality of secondary receptacles 36, which are adapted for receiving an article of food. The perimeter wall of each receptacle terminates at a second bottom surface 44. The second container further comprises a second lip 38 radially extending from portions of the top surface 32 and the perimeter walls. Optionally, the first container may also include a lid 40.

Optionally the first and second containers may further comprise a top layer, respectively. The top layer may include a lid as discussed above, a plastic film 22 or sleeve that is wrapped (e.g., shrink-wrapped) around the resulting joint of the lip and the lid of the respective container, a plastic sheet 24 that is releasably attached to the top surface and/or lip of the respective container, or combinations thereof. In one optional embodiment, the plastic film and/or the plastic sheet itself includes nanoparticles having antimicrobial activity. Such a film or sheet may be elastomeric, and be re-usable.

In one embodiment, FIGS. 2a and 2b illustrate a second container having four secondary receptacles. The receptacles share portions of their respective downward extending perimeter walls with adjacent receptacles. In another embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 3a and 3b, the four secondary receptacles of the second container may each include an exclusive perimeter wall 46, which is not shared by an adjacent secondary receptacle. As such, valleys 42 are formed between the exclusive perimeter walls of two or more individual secondary receptacles and the interconnecting second top surface, thereabove. The interconnecting second top surface can provide additional support for the second container as well as provide for attachment areas for the plastic sheet.

In another embodiment, the plastic sheet, (FIG. 3) is releasably attached to the second lip and the top surface, resulting in a sealed cavity within the first, second, third and/or fourth secondary receptacles. Optionally, a lid may be placed over the plastic sheet or the plastic sheet may be used in place of or in addition to the lid, the plastic film, or both. The plastic sheet is releasably attached to the top surface or portions thereof using known techniques such as adhesion or otherwise.

Accordingly, it is also appreciated that the one or more primary receptacles, the one or more secondary receptacles, or combinations thereof may be different in shape, size, orientation, or otherwise from one receptacle to another. For example, the height of the perimeter wall for one receptacle may be larger than the perimeter wall height of a second receptacle and/or the dimensions of the bottom surface for one receptacle may be different from the dimensions of the bottom surface of a second receptacle.

The first container and the second container may be packaged together or separately, but preferably packaged together. It is contemplated that the packaged food component may comprise a first container and a second container that are positioned on top of one another, side-by-side, or otherwise positioned with respect to one another. In one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 5, the first container is positioned beneath the second container and the first container is releasably attached to the second container using a plastic film 22 or otherwise.

In a preferred embodiment, the packaged food container may comprise a first container or a second container that is at least partially disposed within the other container. Preferably, as shown in FIG. 4, the second container is entirely disposed within the first container wherein, the second lip of the second container is contacting the first lip of the first container. Optionally, the first and second lips may be engageable with one another, thereby forming at least a partial seal of the bottom container. It is also appreciated that the positions of the first and second containers may be exchanged with respect to one another. It is further appreciated that the first and second containers may be releasably attached using a plastic film as discussed above.

The present invention is directed to a method for packaging an article, comprising the steps of dispersing in a matrix of, or otherwise contacting with, a thermoplastic polymer (and particularly a polymer selected from polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene, polypropylene or any combination thereof), a nanoparticle including an element exhibiting anti-microbial activity, or an alloy or compound of the element, and particularly an element selected from silver, gold, platinum, palladium, iridium, zinc, magnesium, tin, copper, antimony, or bismuth. Packaging components prepared by the above steps are also contemplated.

More specifically, one particular aspect of the invention is directed to a method for packaging an article, comprising the steps of a) admixing a polyethylene terephthalate polymer with a nanoparticle filler including an element, or an alloy or compound of an element selected from silver, gold, platinum, palladium, iridium, zinc, magnesium, tin, copper, antimony, zirconium, titanium or bismuth (and more specifically an alloy or compound of an element selected from silver or gold); b) heating the polyethylene terephthalate polymer to soften it; and c) shaping the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle filler admixed therein to form a package component.

While the present invention is disclosed in connection with a particular class of materials, for which unexpected property improvements are believed possible, other classes of materials are possible also. Thus, even though a preferred material is polyethylene terephthalate, other plastics may be processed according to the present teachings, such as polyolefins (e.g., high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, or any combination thereof), polycarbonate, polyvinylchloride, polystyrene or any combination thereof. Desirably, the plastics are of a type that can be readily recycled. They may be substantially amorphous, or may exhibit some crystallinity. It is also possible that the plastics are elastomeric, rubber, or even thermoset.

An example of one typical polyethylene terephthalate will exhibit a melting point greater than about 250° C., e.g., from about 255 to about 275° C. Thus, it is contemplated that certain of the processes herein will involve heating the polymer (e.g., polyethylene terephthalate) to a temperature above its melting point. Of course, some processing may occur at a lower temperature, e.g., above any softening point of the polymer. In one embodiment, the resulting plastic will have a tensile strength of at least about 30 MPa, and more preferably at least about 50 MPa.

The nanoparticles may be provided in elemental form, or as a compound or alloy. For example, without limitation, among the compounds that may be employed herein are nitrates, halides, citrates, sulphates, acetates, oxides, or any combination thereof. For example, if the nanoparticle is to include silver, examples of suitable compounds may include one or any combination of silver nitrate, silver bromide, silver chloride, silver oxide, silver acetate, silver citrate, or silver sulphate. Alloys including silver may include one or more other noble metals. The compounds or alloys may be such that they result in a gradual decomposition over time for releasing ions or atoms in an efficacious amount.

Desirably the nanoparticles employed according the present teachings will exhibit some anti-microbial activity. In one embodiment, the nanoparticles are known to kill one or more microbe selected from Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus, Shigella, Salmonella, or Escherichia coli.

Additionally, though the preferred fillers are disclosed in the above discussion, other fillers may be used in addition to or as an alternative to the present fillers. For example, nanofillers such as nanoclays, mineralized ash, talc, silica, silicate, Boehmite alumina, aluminorganic, carbon, graphite, kaolin, cellulose, calcium carbonate, mica, Montmorillonite, Wollastonite, poly oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS), or any combination thereof may be employed.

The plastics may also include one or more other art-disclosed additive ingredient, such as (without limitation), a UV stabilizer, a flame retardant, a colorant, nucleating agent (e.g., without limitation, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,015,267, incorporated by reference), a reinforcement, an anti-oxidant, a lubricant, an anti-static additive, a release agent, an impact modifier, a processing aid, or any combination thereof. The total amount of such other additives is expected to generally be less than about 20% by weight of the total resulting plastic.

The ingredients may be dry-blended, melt-blended or a combination of both. In one embodiment, the ingredients, the nanoparticles and any optional components are pre-compounded (e.g., in a screw and barrel assembly). Thus they may fabricated into pellets or another preform for further processing downstream into a package component (e.g., shaping by molding, extruding, thermoforming, or otherwise). The ingredients may be dry-blended, melt-blended or a combination of both.

In general, the mean particle size of the nanoparticles of any nanofiller employing generally ranges up to about 500 nm, but more preferably are less than about 100 nm, and still more preferably are less than about 20 nm, e.g., from about 1 to about 10 nm, and more specifically about 2 to about 7 nm.

The amount of the nanoparticles used as a nanofiller may vary from application to application. It may be included, for example, so that the nanoparticles are present in an amount as great as about 75% by weight of the resulting material. More typically, the nanoparticles will be present as a nanofiller in an amount less than about 50% by weight of the resulting material, more specifically less than about 35% by weight of the resulting material, and still more specifically less than about 20% by weight of the resulting material. In one particular aspect, the elements of the nanoparticles may be present in an amount of 0.001 to about 1000 ppm, and more specifically about 1 to 100 ppm. It is contemplated, in one illustrative aspect of the invention, that the nanoparticles that are exposed on the surface of any resulting material will be present in an amount ranging from about 0.1 to about 100 micrograms per square centimeter (e.g., about 1 to 50 micrograms per square centimeter).

The nanoparticles used herein are contemplated to be dispersed generally uniformly throughout a matrix of the polymer. However, the nanoparticles could be discretely located at predetermined locations within or on the surface of a polymeric body. For example, a polymeric body can be surface treated with the nanoparticles, such as by a solvent coating, electrocoating, plasma treating, vapor deposition, sputtering, impregnating, or otherwise contacting the surface with the nanoparticles. The polymeric body may be shaped to its desired shape prior to, during, or subsequent to the surface treatment. For example, a pellet, parison, sheet, film or other preform of a polymer (e.g., selected from a polyethylene terephthalate, a polyethylene, a polypropylene, or any combination thereof) may be formed with or without a nanoparticle therein. Then, the pellet, parison, sheet, film or other preform is surface treated, followed by a step of shaping the pellet, parison, sheet, film or other preform to its final shape. For one specific example, a polyethylene terephthalate parison is surface contacted or impregnated with a nanoparticle (e.g., a particle including the atomic or ionic form of an element having anti-microbial activity herein, such as silver, gold, or both). Thereafter, the parison is blow molded. The impregnation or surface treatment thus results in a compositional gradient of the nanoparticle across the wall thickness of the resulting part, preferably with the higher concentration of nanoparticle located proximate the article to be contained. In one approach, the interior wall of a tubular parison is selectively contacted with the nanoparticles for achieving anti-microbial activity prior to blow molding, thereby resulting in an interior wall that has the nanoparticles present. The exterior wall may thus have the nanoparticles present in a lower concentration relative to the interior wall, or it may even be substantially free of the nanoparticles.

The nanofillers may be pre-treated using an art-disclosed technique. They may be coated. They may comprise an active ingredient (e.g., a biocide). The particles of the nanofillers may be tubular in shape, substantially spherical, or otherwise shaped. The nanoparticles may be substantially solid, or they may be porous. They may have a surface charge, be substantially free of a surface charge, or be treated to modify the surface charge. Moreover, the nanoparticles may be treated to render them hydrophilic or hydrophobic.

The package component may be any suitable configuration for containing or carrying an article, and particularly for use in a package that will enclose the article. Accordingly, the package component may be selected from a lid, a cap, a receptacle, a removable protective film, or any combination thereof. The package component may include a divider wall for separating the component into different compartments. Other variations are also possible. Typically the package component will have a wall thickness at its thinnest point of at least about 0.05 mm, and more specifically at least about 0.2 mm (e.g., from about 0.1 mm to about 1.5 mm). Variations of wall thicknesses across a particular volume of material are also possible.

Any of a variety of art-disclosed techniques can be used for shaping a package component according to the present teachings. For example, one preferred approach is to mold the package. Other steps may be employed. For example, the shaping step may be selected from blow molding the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; injection molding the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; rotational molding the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; thermoforming the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; rotational extruding the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; die cutting the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; vacuum forming the polyethylene terephthalate polymer with the nanoparticle to form the package component; or any combination thereof. Any shaping step that may be employed may include a two-shot molding step, an insert molding step, or both. Of course, any of the above practices may also be employed for processing any other thermoplastics herein. Further, it is possible that one of the above shaping steps is performed without the presence of any nanoparticle and thereafter the nanoparticle is contacted with the package component.

Any blow molding step may include extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, stretch blow molding, or a combination thereof. Blow molding can be done using an apparatus including a rotary wheel apparatus, a shuttle apparatus, a reciprocating screw, an accumulator head, or any combination thereof. Molds against which a parison is expanded may be heated or cooled as desired.

The methods herein contemplate that one or more secondary operations are performed in connection with making a package. For example, the methods may further comprise a step of applying a protective layer (which itself may include a nanofilled plastic) over at least a portion of the package component. Another operation may include a step of labeling the package component. For example, the step of labeling may be selected from dry transfer labeling, hot stamping, thermal labeling, screen printing, pad printing or otherwise. Such labeling may be to denote the source of the product. In instances where the article to be packaged is a food, it may include nutrition labeling, freshness data, freshness indicators or otherwise. Labels employed herein themselves may include one or more of the antimicrobial nanoparticles.

Articles apart from foods are contemplated as being contained within the packages of the present invention. For example, the packages herein might be employed to contain plants, flowers, medicine, cleansers, personal hygiene products, toys, electronic goods, camera film, recording media, chemicals or otherwise.

A particularly preferred application of the invention includes a step of filling the package with a food, and particularly a fresh food, (e.g., a food or a fresh food, that consists essentially of natural ingredients). For example, one approach is to fill the package with a dip or sauce, such as a salsa, a salad dressing, a hummus, or a guacamole. In a particular aspect, the food is a tomato-based product, or otherwise comprises peeled or unpeeled fresh tomato sections, and thus the methods herein may include a step of removing substantially the entirety of the peel of the tomato sections. In another particular aspect, the food is a chickpea-based product. It is also contemplated that the foods packaged herein may comprise one or any combination of ingredients selected from garlic, black peppers, cayenne peppers, green peppers, red peppers, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, chili peppers, poblano peppers, cayenne pepper, Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, avocadoes, black beans, red beans, white beans, pine nuts, soybean, eggplants, garbanzo beans, sesame tahini, artichokes, onions, sundried tomatoes, salt, cane sugar, cilantro, carrots celery, parsley, basil, cumin, peaches, spinach, dill, corn, vinegar, water, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, soy sauce, limes, lemons, pineapples, apricots, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, mangos, olives, potatoes, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise or cheese. It is possible that one or more of the ingredients are organically produced. Vitamins or other nutrients may be added. Other ingredients, such as citric acid, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate may be employed for taste and food preservation. The ingredients may be in fresh whole or segmented form, in pureed form, powdered form, liquid form (e.g., as a juice, a cider (such as apple cider), an oil, a syrup or otherwise), dried form, seed form, in a concentrate or any combination thereof. The food packaged herein may be a beverage, a juice, or possibly even a juice concentrate. The food may be hot-filled into a package, e.g. at a temperature greater than about 75° C. As seen, the present invention is useful for packaging of numerous food product types, including but not limited to fruits, vegetables, dairy products, egg products, bean products, meat products, or otherwise.

In another preferred application of the invention, a packaged food product contains a primary food such as a chickpeas based food product and a secondary food product including one or more of the ingredients as discussed above. The primary food being separate from the secondary food product so as to sustain the freshness of the packaged food product. Optionally, the one or more ingredients of the secondary food product may be further separated for additional improvement of the shelf life for the packaged food product. For example, a packaged food product comprises a first container having a primary food product that is hummus and a second container having a secondary food product that is one or more of the ingredients as discussed above, the first container and the second container being separate from one another. Preferably, the second container having one or more ingredients that are separated by one or more receptacles, more specifically, the second container including a first receptacle having roasted pine nuts, a second receptacle having minced garlic, a third receptacle having roasted red pepper, and the fourth receptacle having spicy cilantro.

It is further contemplated that foods packaged components herein may reside in one or more individual containers that are packaged separately or together, wherein each individual container may comprise one or more ingredients as discussed above. As such, the individual containers are configured to retain the foods therein and additionally, may include one or more receptacles for further separation of the foods and/or ingredients contained within the individual container. The separation of foods and/or ingredients prevents mixing, which can help sustain the freshness and/or shelf life of the foods therein.

Desirably the package food containers herein are used to contain a fresh food for preserving freshness of the food. Thus, typically the step of filling the package occurs within about 72 hours (and more preferably within about 24 hours (e.g., about 6 hours)) of the manufacture of the food.

The present invention further contemplates a step of recycling a package component including an antimicrobial nanoparticle as taught herein. In one approach, the component is re-melted and mixed with another plastic. In another approach, it is ground into particles and included as a filler of another plastic.

Use of the package components herein with the disclosed nanoparticles generally exhibits prolonged food freshness as compared with package that do not employ the nanoparticles. For example, freshness in a sealed unopened package may be prolonged by at least 15%, and more specifically, at least 30% of product shelf life using a conventional unmodified plastic package. Product shelf life can be extended by at least three days, at least one week, at least two weeks, or possibly even longer. For example a useful shelf life of an unopened food prepared from fresh ingredients (e.g., a salsa or a dip), can be at least 2 weeks, more specifically at least 4 weeks, and still more specifically at least 6 weeks from the date of filling.

The explanations and illustrations presented herein are intended to acquaint others skilled in the art with the invention, its principles, and its practical application. Those skilled in the art may adapt and apply the invention in its numerous forms, as may be best suited to the requirements of a particular use. Accordingly, the specific embodiments of the present invention as set forth are not intended as being exhaustive or limiting of the invention. The scope of the invention should, therefore, be determined not with reference to the above description, but should instead be determined with reference to the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled. The disclosures of all articles and references, including patent applications and publications, are incorporated by reference for all purposes.