Companies in the business of manufacturing and distributing food face just about the greatest scrutiny of any industry. Unlike the manufacturers of, say, cameras or shuffleboard sticks, food distributors traffic in products that actually go in the consumer’s mouth, which means a higher potential for contamination or customer injury. Therefore, the safety of your food packaging process needs to be paramount in your mind.
We’re not going to plunge elbow-deep into the specifics of food packaging safety here, both because different products may call for different handling and because we can’t hope to scratch the surface of the FDA’s complex list of food packaging regulations. However, there are a few basic things to remember when choosing a fulfillment company for your food packaging needs.
Everything that comes into contact with edible products has the potential to cause foodborne illness and even death. This includes manufacturing equipment, primary and secondary containers, storage facilities, and shipping methods. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has published food packaging regulations that work to minimize those risks, and these regulations can profoundly affect food packaging methods. As modern shipping methods make it easier to transport edible products around the globe, enforceable, standardized safety practices become even more critical to human health.
Goals of Food Packaging Requirements
Food packaging and documentation regulations put out by the FSMA are in place to ensure that all edible products are safe to transport, store and consume. According to the FDA, one in six Americans is affected by foodborne illness yearly. These statistics only scratch the surface of the need for enforceable food packaging regulations.
Outbreaks of salmonella, listeria, and toxoplasma, as well as foodborne illnesses caused by chemical additives, microbes, and other unspecified agents, have resulted in over 3,000 deaths, nearly 128,000 hospitalizations, and 47.8 million illnesses within the United States in 2011 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Clearly, there is a need for food packaging regulations in the food packaging, shipping, and manufacturing industries.
Benefits of Food Packaging Regulations to Manufacturers
On the surface, additional regulations and documentation requirements may appear to be an added burden on the affected industries. Certainly, there are added expenses. Refrigeration, sterilization, documentation, and corrective measures cost money. At the same time, however, these actions work to prevent potential lawsuits resulting from foodborne illness. Due to the negligence issues related to foodborne illness, punitive damages can become a huge financial burden. In addition to preventing financial loss through lawsuits, the improved sanitation and food packaging practices stipulated in food packaging regulations also provide consumers with the assurance that their products are safe, increasing the likelihood of increased sales.
Basics of Food Packaging Regulations
While in no way conclusive, the fundamental aspects of the FSMA food packaging regulations include the following safety plan:
- Hazard analysis: Identification and evaluation of known and reasonably foreseeable hazards
- Preventive controls: Identification and implementation of process controls, allergen controls, sanitation controls, and a recall plan
- Monitoring procedures: Ensuring that preventive controls are implemented and documented consistently
- Corrective actions: Steps to be taken when preventive controls fail to evaluate consumer safety, prevent unsafe products from entering the marketplace, and make necessary corrections
- Verification: Monitoring preventive controls and documentation to ensure their effectiveness
- Record keeping: A written food safety plan that includes all of the above
Food packaging, manufacturing, shipping, and sales firms, as well as consumers, will all benefit, in the long run, from FSMA’s food packaging regulations.
Hygiene: First, Foremost, And Always
Obviously, proper hygiene is essential for anyone who comes into contact with food. It goes without saying that a strict regimen of hand washing should be required of employees. Still, it’s also vital that you provide whatever materials are necessary for individuals to maintain high hygienic standards, whatever their specific role may be. To protect against germs, stock up on gloves, hairnets, smocks, etc. For potential contaminants that are visible without the aid of a microscope, visual spot checks are a helpful tool to make certain your products are free from foreign objects and that best practices are being followed.
Choosing The Right Fulfillment Company
Whatever precautions you take to ensure the cleanliness and safety of your food production, it’s equally critical that the fulfillment company you contract to package your food is conscious of these concerns.
Contract packaging companies with expertise and experience in the area of food safety regulations and practices are worth their weight in gold, regardless of whether they are simply supplying the packaging to you or they are providing a full turnkey service of filling and shipping preparation. With so much riding on your decision of which company to hire, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your candidates:
- What sorts of quality control testing do they perform on their materials?
- What best practices do they adhere to?
- Can they produce a record of their safety inspections over the years?
With the possible exception of produce, nearly every food product requires some packaging, and while a fulfillment company that can provide an eye-catching and informative design is great, staying abreast of their safety performance will ensure that your consumers aren’t unwittingly putting anything unsafe in their mouths.
If you have questions on food safety or would like to discuss your food packaging project, please complete the request for quote form on this page. One of our packaging sales experts will get in touch immediately and provide additional details to meet your project requirements.