You’ve picked up your groceries from the store and now you’re at home about to prep tonight’s dinner. Before you remove your chicken from its packaging, have you ever considered why it’s wrapped the way it is? What about the rice you’re about to boil?
We often don’t consider the safety procedures that have gone into packaging the food that we consume daily. Package integrity testing is extremely important to keep us safe against hidden bacteria and contamination. When packaging food, we need to make sure the proper safety procedures are applied.
Which safety procedures go into food packaging? How do these procedures keep us safe? Here are the six most important safety procedures in packaging food:
Safety Procedure #1: Food Packaging
We don’t often think about the packaging that our food comes in or the role it plays in keeping our food safe. Not only does proper food packaging protect food from physical damage, allow for storage, handling, and shipping, but it also protects against chemical and microbiological contamination.
There are several different kinds of food packaging: the primary packaging, secondary packaging, and tertiary packaging. Primary packaging is the outside package that holds the food. Secondary packaging is what combines the primary packages into one container. Finally, tertiary packaging combines all of the secondary packages into one container.
When it’s being decided which type of packaging to use, the packaging material is often chosen based on the composition of the food being packaged. Some things that come into consideration include whether the food is wet or dry, acidic or alkaline, the alcohol content, and the fat content. This will ensure the food inside stays safe from damage and doesn’t pose a threat to your health.
Safety Procedure #2: Protective Materials
Even the ink that is used on packaging matters when it comes to safety procedures in packaging food. Consideration needs to be given to the ink to ensure that it does not contain dangerous substances that may pass through the packaging into the food. The food inside the packaging can have a direct impact on the type of ink used. For example, if the food being packaged is high in fat, like cheese.
Other materials like laminate films have regulations that need to be followed. In the case of laminate films, the layers must be food-safe to stop the migration of hazardous substances into the food being packaged.
Safety Procedure #3: Safety Labels
Proper labelling of food items is also an essential step when keeping food safe. An adverse health outcome can result from incorrect labeling, like a missing detail on the list of ingredients. For example, there may be a nut-related ingredient in the food that didn’t make the food label for one reason or another. This could put someone’s life at risk if they have a deadly nut allergy.
Consumers rely on manufacturers to correctly label all food items so consumers can make informed decisions as to whether or not a food item is appropriate for their unique diet. Packaging that is not labelled properly is often the main reason behind product recalls. Packaging errors are typically due to a failure to report potential allergens in the food product.
Safety Procedure #4: Food Preparation
How is the food being prepared? Are workers using proper handwashing techniques? Are workers wearing appropriate equipment like gloves and masks? All of these things come into play when preparing food. The highest of standards need to be applied to ensure no contaminants are getting into the food.
Safety Procedure #5: Manufacturing Standards
The manufacturing process is another important procedure in packaging food. The manufacturing facility and the practices being used all need to adhere to safety and quality standards to ensure food isn’t compromised. An example of this is the environment in which food packaging is manufactured. The environment in the manufacturing facility has a direct impact on the safety of the food.
If something is out of place, or someone in the plant doesn’t follow the rules, it could have a serious effect on the quality and safety of the food. Even a jar lacking a proper seal can cause an adverse health outcome. Manufacturers need to ensure that equipment is being properly sanitized and that workers follow proper personal hygiene protocols.
Safety Procedure #6: Food Packaging Regulations
Governments across the world place food packaging regulations upon manufacturers to ensure the safe and hygienic manufacturing of packaging that comes into contact with food. These regulations ensure the best quality and hygienically manufactured packaging is used at all times. In Canada, the main food regulation is called the Food and Drug Act which regulates food, drugs, and cosmetic products to help protect the health and safety of Canadians.
These six safety procedures in food packaging aim to keep consumers safe from chemical and microbiological contamination. Upholding regulations in the food packaging process ensures that consumers are purchasing food items that have their ingredients listed on the label and that have been prepared and manufactured correctly.