Closure (container): Wikis

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An assortment of wine corks. The cork was one of the first closures invented.

Closures are devices and techniques used to close a bottle, jug, jar, tube, can, etc.

Other types of containers such as boxes and drums may also have closures but are not discussed in this article.

Contents

Purpose of closures

Closures play an important role in food preservation, which is the process of treating and handling food to stop or greatly slow down spoilage (loss of quality, edibility or nutritive value) caused or accelerated by micro-organisms. Closures make it possible to preserve food and beverages for a long period of time by reducing the food/beverage's exposure to microorganisms. Air-tight seals are especially useful in this regard.

Since the late nineteenth century, closures have played an important role in ensuring food safety. This is because closures that function improperly can lead to contamination, which in turn can lead to food poisoning.

Closures are also important in the packaging of prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs, where the goal is to prevent contamination which might effect the efficacy of the drug.

Since the 1970s, closures have also played an important role in the government's drive to prevent accidental childhood poisoning, and a number of child resistant and tamper-evident closures have been created.

History of closures

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The cork, ca. 600 BC

The earliest recorded closure is the cork, which was created by the ancient Greeks circa 600 BC.

Canning, 1810-1812

A bust of Nicolas Appert, the father of modern canning.

A major breakthrough in the history of closures was made in the early nineteenth century by Nicolas Appert, the "father of canning". In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte offered an award of 12,000 francs to anyone who could devise a practical method for food preservation for armies on the march. Appert submitted his invention and won the prize in 1810. The following year, Appert published L'Art de conserver les substances animales et végétales (or The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances). This was the first cookbook of its kind on modern food preservation methods.

The House of Appert became the first commercial cannery in the world. Appert patented his invention and established a business to preserve a variety of food in sealed bottles. Appert's method was to fill thick, large-mouthed glass bottles with produce of every description, ranging from beef, fowl, eggs, milk, and prepared dishes. He left air space at the top of the bottle, and the cork would then be sealed firmly in the jar by using a vise. The bottle was then wrapped in canvas to protect it, while it was dunked into boiling water and then boiled for as much time as Appert deemed appropriate for cooking the contents thoroughly.

In honour of Appert, canning is sometimes called "appertisation", but should be distinguished from pasteurization. Appert's early attempts at food preservation by boiling involved cooking the food to a temperature far in excess of what is used in pasteurization (70 °C (158 °F)), and can destroy some of the flavour of the preserved food.

Appert's method was so simple and workable, that it quickly became widespread. In 1810, fellow Frenchman Peter Durand patented his own method, but this time in a tin can, so creating the modern-day process of canning foods. In 1812 Englishmen Bryan Donkin and John Hall purchased both patents and began producing preserves.

Canning remained of limited popularity, owing to the difficulty of opening tin cans before the cutting wheel can opener was invented by William Lyman in 1870. Mass production did not really begin until the twentieth century.

The mason jar and salt shaker screw cap, 1858

John Landis Mason, a tinsmith from Philadelphia, made two major closure breakthroughs in 1858: (1) he invented the metal screw-on lid for fruit jars that have come to be known as Mason jars. Many such jars were printed with the line "Mason's Patent Nov 30th 1858". (2) He also invented the first screw top salt shaker.

Late 19th-century innovations in bottle stopper technology

The latter half of the nineteenth century saw a number of new devices patented to seal beer bottles and soft drink bottles.

The first such patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office was to Henry William Putnam in 1859. In involved heavy wire bail attached to a bottle's neck that swung over the cork to hold it in.

In 1875, Frenchman Charles De Quillfeldt invented the Lightning Stopper which involved leveraging a rubber disc into the lip of the bottle to make a seal. The rights to the Lightning Stopper were acquired by Karl Hutter in 1877, and it was Hutter who was responsible for popularizing the method in beer bottling. There were many imitators, including Henry Putnam, who in 1882 adopted the method for fruit jars.

Hutter also improved on the technology, patenting the Hutter Stopper in 1893. The Hutter Stopper involved a porcelain plug fitted with a rubber washer, which was then forced down into the lip of the bottle. This technique only works with carbonated beverages. The Hutter Stopper became standard in beer bottling in the late 1890s / early 1900s.

The invention of the bottle cap, 1890s

Bottle caps.

The world's first bottle cap, the crown cork, was invented by William Painter in 1890 in Baltimore. The crown bottle cap was cheap, easy to manufacture, and produced an airtight seal. The company making it was originally called the Bottle Seal Company, it changed its name with the almost immediate success of the crown cork to the Crown Cork and Seal Company. It still informally goes by that name, but is officially Crown Holdings. The Patent was granted in 1892, as US patent 468,258. The crown cork was the first highly successful disposable product (it can be resealed but not easily). Painter also invented the churchkey bottle opener for removing crown corks.

Mass production of glass bottles, 1900s

An assortment of beer bottles.

Michael J. Owens successfully automated the process for manufacturing glass bottles and jars in the early 1900s. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903, and then, with Edward D. Libbey, co-founded the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. (The Owens Bottle Company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.)

Screw caps, 1910s-20s

Following World War I, glass and cap manufacturers developed voluntary industry standards for continuous-thread screw caps.

The screw cap using rust resistant aluminum was first used in prescription drug bottling in the 1920s.

The plastic revolution, 1940s-50s

Tupperware on display at the Design Museum Ghent.

In the period following World War II, closure manufacturers developed a wide variety of new closures using plastic. Plastic was more malleable than the materials previously used in closures and could therefore be manufactured in a hitherto unimaginable variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

One company closely associated with the new plastic closures was Tupperware, founded by Earl Tupper in 1946. Tupperware manufactured a complete line of sealable polyethylene food containers that Tupper cleverly promoted through a network of housewives who sold Tupperware as a means of bringing in some money.

Push twist caps, 1960s

In the 1960s, manufacturers developed push-twist caps that for the first time created a vacuum sealed container that could be easily resealed after it was opened. This technology was first applied to baby food and juice bottles.

Child-resistant packaging, 1970s

Bottle of Geritol with a child resistant lid.

A history of accidents involving children opening household packaging and ingesting the contents led the US Congress to pass the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970. This gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority to regulate this area. Additions throughout the decades have increased the initial coverage to include other hazardous items, including chemicals regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Coordination exists for improving international standards on requirements and protocols. The regulations are based on protocols of performance tests of packages with actual children, to determine if the packages can be opened. More recently, additional testing is used to determine if aged or handicapped people have the ability to open the same packages. Often the C-R requirements are met by package closures which require two dissimilar motions for opening.

Tamper-evident packaging, 1980s

Tamper-evident packaging began to be introduced in the 1980s. Tamper-evident packaging is designed to make it obvious if the packaging has been previously opened. For example, prescription drugs are often sold in bottles with a seal that must be removed the first time the bottle is opened. Another technique is to have a bottle cap that "pops" the first time they are opened.

The manufacture of closures

The Closure & Container Manufacturers Association is the main American trade association for closure manufacturers. It develops voluntary industry standards for its members to use in the manufacture of closures.

See also

Further reading

  • Brody, A. L., and Marsh, K, S., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 1997, ISBN 0-471-06397-5
  • Soroka, W, "Fundamentals of Packaging Technology", IoPP, 2002, ISBN 1-930268-25-4

External links


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