How Food Packaging Affects Our Health and Safety
Most of us don’t think about how our food gets from Point A to Point B. The ingredient labels we skim, the meat we take out of carefully sealed packages, the expiration dates — every single part of the final product must meet rigorous guidelines and controls before it’s allowed onto the shelves. Each packaging manufacturer, for example, must meet retailer requirements for packaging and food safety, which means that their food sealing machines, pouch filling machines, X-ray machines for food inspection, etc., must all be up to par with standards set by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, manufacturers also want to keep their costs down to be as efficient as possible. So what are these guidelines? How do food processors find the right packaging manufacturers?
What Are Some Basic Guidelines That Manufacturers Must Follow?
Every part of the food industry must adhere to strict sanitation guidelines and limit cross-contamination. You may have seen the warnings on certain products that say, “May contain__” or “Processed in a facility that uses/handles__” to make sure that allergic consumers know the potential for the product they’re purchasing to have a trace of something that could set their allergies off.
Manufacturers must also follow the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), which include demands for further training, explicit records, written cleaning and sanitizing procedures and to keep an eye on environments where product contamination could be rife, among other items.
Manufacturers also usually undergo several inspections a year to make sure that their equipment and facility are up to par and that all is proceeding as it should.
How Can Machinery Help?
From X-ray machines to food sealing machines, technology helps keep our food safe from contaminants and other environmental factors. A food sealing machine, for example, keeps our meat in an airtight environment, away from any bacteria or other environmental factors that could spoil it. It also keeps any bacteria that raw meat holds from seeping into holding or transport areas, reducing contamination there. Food sealing machines give manufacturers secure and sanitary solutions for how to package more safely and efficiently.
A food metal detector can sense harmful amounts of metallic contaminants, such as ferrous, non ferrous, and stainless steel and X-rays can detect 1.5 mm or less of metallic contaminants, increasing food safety and brand protection. Generally a food metal detector can sense about 2.5-3.5 mm. X-ray machines can also detect small bones (such as poultry bones as small as 2 mm), which can be choking hazards.
Food and packaging must also undergo other tests and controls, such as taint testing, color bleeding, and whether it holds up to saliva or perspiration, among other factors.
Why Does Packaging Matter?
Packaging lets us know what we’re consuming, whether it’s been opened or tampered with, the nutritional value, and keeps our food safe from contaminants. Packaging experts also say that every pound of plastic packaging can reduce food waste by as much as two pounds. And, with recycling in full swing, with around 70% of the United States population having access to a recycling program, plastic is also more environmentally friendly in terms of the resources needed to create the packaging.
Two pounds of plastic can deliver around 10 gallons of beverages (whether it be juice, soda, or water), whereas you would need three pounds of aluminum, eight pounds of steel, and over 40 pounds of glass to get the same amount of beverage delivered.
And, further advances have made it possible to use even less plastic in packaging with the same results. Since 1977, a two-liter plastic soda bottle has reduced its weight by 21 grams — just over 30% of a reduction. This has saved over 180 million pounds of packaging in 2006 — and that’s just talking about soda bottles!
Making sure that the right measures and equipment, such as food sealing machines are being used to properly process our food is key for our health and safety.