Review and act upon these 5 recommendations and you’ll be more informed and prepared to identify and address the food packaging safety issues within your operation. You, your facility and management will all benefit.
Feedback collected from professionals connected to the food packaging industry suggests that years after the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has gone into effect, gaps remain between food packaging customer expectations and food packaging supplier safety control.
I’ve taken the liberty of interpreting information that I’ve collected in the 4 plus years since the FSMA was broadly announced to the food and packaging industries. Broadly speaking, we in the packaging industry are not food scientists, we are not microbiologists, we are not HACCP experts, nor are we attorneys.
We are engineers, chemists, production managers, process developers, logistics and implementation experts and packaging material scientists. Hopefully, some of our cross-functional colleagues are quality-control professionals. We respect them, and, maybe, once a year, we listen to their presentation at the annual division or department team meeting.
As packaging professionals, we exist to develop, commercialize and manufacture (or use) packaging and/or materials to convert them. In our business, quality refers to the integrity of the threads on the finish of a rigid container, the wall thickness at a critical point on a thermoformed part, the integrity of a die-cut ECT 36 corrugated display shipper or the COF (coefficient of friction) on a roll of printed film.
If we’re equipment-related engineers, quality relates to consistency of operation, proper design, assembly and satisfactory completion of the factory or customer acceptance test. Rarely do we walk through the halls of our technical centers or the aisles of our manufacturing facilities burdened by worries that the packaging or related equipment we sell, use or distribute is at risk of causing a food safety breach at the customer or consumer level.
Avoid the safety sin of omission
We are all aware of food packaging safety “events” which get occasionally publicized and we are oblivious to the ones that aren’t. We are certainly experienced enough to understand that safe, suitable food packaging materials conversion doesn’t magically “happen.” But we are often guilty of acting to the contrary. Many of us are oblivious to day-to-day food safety risks, or we act in a manner which makes us appears unprepared or uninvolved.
Food packaging safety awareness may never get to the level of importance applied against food ingredient safety, but it is well-advised for those of you involved in every aspect of food packaging, contact or not, to understand the basics of food safety in relation to the component(s) that you are providing. In order to become or feel more connected to the food safety and quality discipline, I make the following recommendations which I will expand on in future articles at PackagingDigest.com:
- Facilitate, organize or attend basic food and packaging safety training or introductory education.
- Attend an “introduction to HACCP” course.
- Attend a client/customer “supplier quality expectations” course or seminar.
- Organize or become a member of a “food safety team” within your facility or organization.
- Subject your internal food packaging safety programs (be you supplier or client) and vendor expectation requirements to external review.
In upcoming blogs I will drill down into each of the listed topics and offer practical, easy-to-execute suggestions for initiating same. Before we move any further into 2016, now is an excellent time to allocate reasonable resources against food packaging safety and suitability!
Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, six as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer with Kraft. As senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at [email protected] or 410-484-9133. The website is www.ehagroup.com.
Focused on food packaging? You’ll see aisles of packaging technologies optimized for food, beverage and other markets at WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11, in Anaheim, CA.