The demand for high quality food does not cease to increase. Consumers expect to find first-class products that stay fresh and retain all their properties until the moment of consumption. And food packaging plays a very important role in this regard.

What is food packaging?

Food packaging is defined as the packaging for food products, the packaging destined to keep the taste and quality of the food safe during the handling and the transportation as well as during the shelf life of the products. In other words, food packaging keeps the benefits of food processing after the process is complete, making it possible for the food products to travel long distances safely from their point of origin and still maintaining their good quality when consuming them.

Food packaging main purposes are, among others, protecting food from external elements and damage so it is safe to eat for a longer period of time, containing the product, providing customers with nutritional information about the food being offered or helping to reduce the security risks of shipment.

Food packaging materials and solutions

Two of the most important elements when determining the shelf life of a food product are package design and the material used. The right selection of food packaging materials and technologies can help to preserve the product quality and freshness during distribution and storage. Research to improve food packaging  keeps advancing, meaning changes in the field will happen and may affect the environmental impact of packaging. Some materials that have traditionally been used in food packaging include glass, metal, plastic, paper and paperboard.

  1. Glass – It is one of the oldest food packaging materials. On one hand, glass is very easy to reuse and recycle. But, on the other hand, despite the use of thinner glass, it is still heavy enough to significantly increase transportation costs. Another problem would be  its fragility and inclination to breakage from internal pressure, impact or thermal shock.
  2. Metal –Metal is a good combination of physical protection, barrier properties and recyclability. The most common ways of using metal for food packaging are aluminum (soft-drinks, pet food), aluminum foil (wrap food, trays), tinplate (drink cans, processed foods) or tin-free steel (food cans, bottle caps, trays).
  3. Plastic – One of the newest, most versatile and most common elements now, plastic is light, offers a lot of flexibility regarding design and is one of the cheapest materials to make. It can keep and protect the food for a long period of time but it is rather permeable to light, gases or vapors and, although it is recyclable, it is a quite polluting material.
  4. Paper and paperboard – Paper is not commonly used as primary packaging to protect food due to its limited barrier properties. In case it is used directly as food packaging, it has to be treated with resin or lacquer. By contrast, paperboard is thicker than paper which means that it is generally used to make containers for shipping such as take away food packaging, for instance.

Select the right food packaging materials and technologies can help to preserve the product quality and freshness during distribution and storage.

How to get food packaging safe during transport

The rise of international trade and online shopping means that, nowadays, food travels great distances thanks to the existence of more efficient means of transport. This has led to more innovative packaging designs, as well as more resistant and sustainable packaging. Even then, there are a number of risks and hazards to which the goods are exposed to during the distribution process such as sudden movements (vibrations, accelerations and decelerations), climate change or other biological factors (mildew, mold, rodents, insect pests, solid and liquid spills). An inadequately packaged cargo may also increase these risks for the people in charge of its distribution, in addition to the transport process and the safety of the products being transported.

To prevent inadequate practices during transportation that could create food safety risks, planning and control measures are among the most important factors. Some good strategies to be adopted when storing and transporting products regarding food packaging involve:

  • Knowing the products and the needs of the distribution cycle. It will be necessary to know the specific conditions required to preserve the product that is being transported. There are products that require refrigeration for their preservation, others may not be exposed to light… Each of these products will require specific care measures that have to be known and fulfilled in order to protect the food.
  • Watching storage times. They will need to be given extra attention to control that they are not excessive, since food is particularly sensitive to the passage of time
  • Handling the goods with appropriate hygienic practices.
  • Using reinforcements should also be considered when placing the products on pallets, for instance. These reinforcements may be made of out of tertiary packaging film, shrink film, anti-skid film or grouping packaging.
  • Optimizing or designing the food packaging in a way that fulfills all the requirements to protect the load, based on the points mentioned above.
  • Lastly, testing whether the food packaging fulfills all the requirements. Transport simulation technologies become, in this way, essential tools and play an important role to properly check which would be the optimal packaging.

Rules and standards for food packaging companies

Food packaging companies need to be especially careful when handling food since something could contaminate the food during the packaging process. Besides, there are other factors during the food packaging process that can make food potentially unsafe such as harmful microorganisms getting into food due to dirty packaging or parts of the packaging, like fragments of glass or plastic, breaking and getting into the food.

According to the European Union, food packaging requirements mandate that all food contact materials:

  • Are safe.
  • Do not transfer components or chemicals to food so as to endanger human health, change food composition or adversely affect food taste or odor.
  • Are produced consistent with good manufacturing practices, consistent with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 20203/2006.
  • Are traceable through the production chain.
  • Bear the EU’s “glass-and-fork” symbol or otherwise labeled to signify compliance with the requirements.

This is why many of the e-commerce giants, such as Amazon, have established in recent years a series of measures and requirements to ensure the safety of the packages, to the greatest possible extent, during the distribution process.

The Amazon Fresh program, for instance, was created with the aim of ensuring and watching that fresh food products are in the best conditions during the storage and transport process from their arrival at the delivery center until their destination.

The said Amazon Fresh packaging system maintains the point of adequate refrigeration of the products, thus guaranteeing the preservation of the safety and quality of the food product until its delivery to the consumer.

The goal is that those who choose to use Amazon as a distribution channel use a safe and sustainable packaging to ensure that the product arrives safe and sound to the buyer. However, it is eventually the responsibility of each supplier to guarantee that their goods meet these standards.

Continue reading: Amazon packaging: how to prepare your products for sale on the retail giant

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we have the experience and technology to make sure your food packaging can meet these requirements and so your products reach the final client maintaining their original freshness and the highest quality.

Get in touch with us and we will help you to optimize your packaging.