Modified atmosphere is the practice of modifying the composition of the internal atmosphere of a package (commonly food packages, drugs, etc.) in order to improve the shelf life.The need for this technology for food arises from the short shelf life of food products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy in the presence of oxygen. In food, oxygen is readily available for lipid oxidation reactions. Oxygen also helps maintain high respiration rates of fresh produce, which contribute to shortened shelf life. From a microbiological aspect, oxygen encourages the growth of aerobic spoilage microorganisms. Therefore, the reduction of oxygen and its replacement with other gases can reduce or delay oxidation reactions and microbiological spoilage. Oxygen scavengers may also be used to reduce browning due to lipid oxidation by halting the auto-oxidative chemical process.
A stable atmosphere of gases inside the packaging can be achieved using active techniques, such as gas flushing and compensated vacuum, or passively by designing “breathable” films.