Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

A quality concept and improved techniques for cork as a packaging material

The traditional cooking process of cork was found to be very critical in the production process. The temperature was not high enough to significantly reduce microbiological contamination. Phenol and chlorine containing substances were extracted from the cork material in the cooking water during the cooking process. Consequently optimization of the cooking process was realized by the development of a procedure of steam treatment. Test ranges carried out in a pilot plant established that the increase of volume, the mechanical behaviour (especially the closing properties of the final cork stoppers) and the structure of the lenticells obtained were comparable with the traditional process. No decrease in volume occurred during further storage of the material. Reduction of microbiological contamination and the reduction of phenol-containing substances was optimized. The danger of infection of uncontaminated material does not exist and the uptake of moisture is reduced. The process can be continued one or two days after the treatment of the plates, so that the problem of long storage times is eliminated. The stamping behaviour of the steam treated material one day after the treatment was comparable with the cooked cork material after 2 weeks of storage.

An optimized surface treatment was developed. The results showed improved qualities compared with commercial products. Test were carried out by the wine bottles, which used the new treatment process for the cork stoppers (leakage, pull-forces, moisture content) and on the wine (absence of residues, taste of the wine). For better quality management of the cork stoppers, recommendations are given for the production of cork stoppers. Methods were established for the configuration of a quality control concept for the different stages of production.

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