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NEED TO KNOW: 4 Keys to Food-safety in Package Printing

We get calls every day from label producers who intend to begin manufacturing flexible packaging for food products. We previously discussed selecting the best multi-layer structure with the appropriate barrier properties to protect product freshness. As printers, while we are not handling food directly, we must keep in mind that food customers expect packaging suppliers to use food safety management systems to protect their products throughout the value chain.

4 Keys for Converters:

  1. Understand the customer’s use of the product.
  2. Use the appropriate films, primers and coatings that are approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  3. Eliminate the preventable risks that may crop up during converting. Many of these risks are common sense. Take a walk through the process. Is there an operator lunching near the slitter? Think about roll contamination if an operator drops her ham sandwich into the machine. Did someone park the finished pouches under a bank of glass light bulbs that could shatter and get shards into the shipment?
    • Set up and maintain a safe process. Identify risks through HACCP (Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points). HACCP maps out the food handling and manufacturing process and identifies potential chemical, physical and biological contaminants that could intrude at each process step.
    • Operate safely. Reduce risks by implementing industrial Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  4. Be accountable. Implement and maintain track and trace information for all materials and processes.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) sets the benchmarks for third-party certification programs. Do you need third-party certification? Not necessarily. If you can demonstrate that care has been taken to reduce risks and hazards and provide traceability, it will often suffice.

Bottom line: The converter must set up operations and maintain good documentation on their manufacturing processes to assure their food customers that their products are safe for consumer use. Begin with food-approved materials, use good manufacturing practices, and reduce all the risks and hazards in the process. Make a plan, keep good documentation and review it annually.