How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program?

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How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program?

In the April-May 2011 issue of Food Safety Magazine, an article entitled “How Should Packaging Be Addressed in Your Food Safety Program” examined the role of packaging and potential safety issues.[1] The food package, whether it is the primary or secondary package, serves a number of roles: It protects the food, provides the consumer with information, helps market the food, warns customers of potential dangers (such as from allergens), provides a container for transport, allows the product to be tracked and traced, and can even provide evidence as to how a product might have become contaminated or spoiled. Packaging was described as being able to inform a consumer or user about how fresh a product might be. The conclusion was that food packaging was generally safe, primarily because all materials used in packaging are subject to approval by regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Food Safety Authority.

So, the question is, has anything changed in the past 5 years? Does packaging pose a risk, and how should it be addressed in your food safety management system (FSMS)?

Hot Issues in Packaging

Consumers have developed a fear of chemicals, which is not scientifically justified. The attitude of many is “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want it in my food.” This has led to the clean-label movement, in which food processors are scrambling to remove the unpronounceable ingredients from their labels, whether they are harmful or not.

Five years ago, one of the big consumer concerns was a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical used to make a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate, which has been used in many consumer products, including reusable water bottles and baby bottles. BPA is also found in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining inside metal-based food and beverage cans. In January 2010, FDA stated that while tests supported the safety of low-level exposure to BPA, more research was being done on its potential effects on infants and children.

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