The Disadvantages of Vacuum Packaging

To save money, more people are shopping at club stores, farmers markets or food clubs where they can buy in bulk at reduced prices. To reduce the chance of spoiling, you need to either use the food fairly soon after buying it, or you need to store it. Vacuum packing can help store food for longer periods of time more safely and efficiently. There are some disadvantages to vacuum packing that you need to consider before purchasing a vacuum packager.

Cheese packed in plastic on a market
credit: DutchScenery/iStock/Getty Images
Dutch cheese slices that have been vacuum packed

Cost

Buying a vacuum packaging machine can be expensive. The initial cost of a machine can be between $50 and several hundred dollars, depending on the quality and size of the machine. Also, there is the ongoing cost of the packing material, which comes in rolls or bags. While it may save you money in the long run, think about how much you will actually use it. If you have limited freezer space and do not purchase in bulk, a vacuum packaging machine may not be a good investment. Do the math before spending the money.

Safety

Removing oxygen from the packaging is a main advantage to vacuum packing. Certain bacteria that cause spoilage need oxygen to grow and reproduce. Without oxygen the food will last much longer because the bacteria can't "do their thing." But the advantage a low-oxygen environment creates can also be a disadvantage. There are types of bacteria that cause diseases which prefer low oxygen environments and grow well in vacuum packed foods. If you feel the food you have is clean and uncontaminated, this should not be a problem, but if there is any question about the safety, do not vacuum pack the food, as you would just be creating a perfect breeding ground for some bad bacteria, such as botulism.

Misconceptions

Sealing food in vacuum packs does not eliminate the need to handle it properly. You need to store frozen food in the freezer and thaw in an appropriate manner to minimize bacteria growth. Also, a vacuum seal is not a heat process that kills bacteria, so if they were there when you started, they will still be there when you open the package. Vacuum packing does not automatically make food safe and eliminate the need to take precautions. Continue to be vigilant with food safety.