Packaging Materials’ Food Safety Begins With Due Diligence

By Larry Dworkin

Despite the fact that most food processors and retailers utilize HACCP standards in their operations, many do not insist that their packaging suppliers be HACCP compliant – even though food safety standards, such as PAC’s PACsecure initiative, exist for packaging materials.

In essence, packaging materials are part of the food processors’ ingredient list, and it only makes good common sense that they should be treated the same as any substance when it comes to food safety.

For many packaging firms, which have become PACsecure certified, it also means they are adding a level of due diligence when it comes to their customer’s needs.

Over the past decade, The Packaging Association (PAC – formerly the Packaging Association of Canada) has developed five food safety standards for packaging materials that are based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) criteria – a criteria recognized by the United Nations and most of the food industry worldwide.

The five standards have been developed for flexible plastics, rigid plastics, paper, metal and glass packaging. They cover the 24 different general manufacturing processes to make the different food packaging.

More than 100 packaging organizations and their customers helped develop the standards along with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A number of these packaging converters have now become compliant with the standards.

Identifying Risks

Because there are so many different processes involved in packaging, “one size does not fit all” when it comes to implementing a food safety standard for packaging materials. Each has its own unique issues when it comes to developing HACCP-based food safety standards to eliminate risks.

For example, there have been numerous migration issues involving chemicals used in inks dyes and adhesives that act differently in the various plastics or paper products they are used for.

There are animal by-products used as de-foamers in the applications of inks, as well as gluten products used in certain adhesives. These could be potential issues unless the food packaging converter or their customer takes appropriate precautions.

Unlike many other standards, which were developed on broad-based principles for the food industry, the PACsecure standards were specifically designed to identify potential hazards associated with each of the 24 common packaging manufacturing processes, which results in more cost effective solutions.

Currently, the PAC is seeking recognition of its PACsecure standards with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) as well as with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The standards have also been accepted by the U.S-based Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP), which includes organizations such as General mills, Kraft, Nestle, Conagra Foods, Unilever, Sara Lee and Campbell Soup.

As part of its initiative, PAC has put on “Train the Trainer” workshops in both Canada and the U.S., developed on-line training tools for employees and management, conducted a mock food recall and traceability field trial for packaging converters and their customers across Canada as well as developed a manual for recall and food traceability.

It has also appointed a number of food safety consulting organizations to assist firms in becoming compliant with the standard as well as third party auditors for certifying companies to PACsecure.

PAC also serves on the packaging technical committee of the Global Food Safety Initiative.  

About the Author

Dworkin is also a member of the Packaging Technical Committee of the Global Food Safety Initiative.

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