Tag Archives: packaging

Food Safety Tech
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3 Ways to Ensure Food Safety for Packaged Foods

By Erica Montes
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Food Safety Tech

Food safety and hygiene are very important aspects of food production, processing and consumption. In the absence of proper hygiene and safety protocols, the entire food chain right from the farmer who grows the food till the consumer who eats it is compromised. Food safety lapses like contamination and spoiling of food pose major health risks.

There are many ways in which a perfectly safe food product can turn hazardous. Cross contamination from animal matter, lack of hygiene among workers in processing plants, poor sanitation procedures, inadequate preservation techniques and low-quality packaging can all adversely affect the shelf life of a food product. Raw food spoils much faster than processed food, so fresh vegetables and fruits used in food processing must be washed properly and stored at optimal temperatures before they are processed.

The following are a few critical factors that affect the safety, shelf life and hygiene of food products.

1. Hygiene in Processing Plants

Personal hygiene and excellent sanitation policies are essential to maintaining food safety. Processing facilities potentially have several points of food contact equipment and food contact surfaces. There must be well developed and written standard cleaning practices or sanitation procedures for all such high-touch areas in a food processing plant. All equipment, vessels and surfaces must be monitored for bioburden or presence of microbial matter.

The workers must also be aware of good personal hygiene practices. This will help prevent cross contamination and possible spread of foodborne diseases from humans. Workers suffering from contagious diseases should refrain from coming to work and regular employee health checkups must be carried out by doctors. All staff must be trained in food and personal hygiene, and strictly follow recommended methods of hand washing and drying. Proper usage of hygiene gear including masks, caps, gloves, overalls and footwear must be ensured.

Floors, walls, drainage facilities, narrow cat-walks and all surfaces in the processing area must be cleaned thoroughly using high quality cleaning materials. The standard cleaning practices must be diligently met each time and the supervisors should ensure that the crew is doing their job properly. Quality and consistent employee training, and effective instant monitoring methods like ATP testing will help achieve these goals.

2. Good Packaging Is Crucial

The quality and suitability of packaging are also very important in determining the safety, longevity and hygiene of food products.

Evolving consumer habits, growth of online marketplaces, increased consumption of high-protein foods, popular demand for smaller portions due to shrinking family size and the rise in new global distribution channels have all impacted packaging requirements.

Sustainable and responsibly sourced packaging materials are the hallmark of advanced packaging technology. They are environmentally friendly and do not deplete natural resources. Clean label packaging focuses on using recycled materials, high-pressure packaging technology, digital packaging and 3-D printing techniques, and outsourcing of more activities to save money, time and resources.

The need for reducing food waste has been an important objective of all recent packaging innovations. According to a recent report by The Guardian, almost half of all U.S. food produce is thrown away. Global food waste can be reduced by extending the shelf life of packaged foods, thereby avoiding early disposal and excessive purchasing. Latest innovations include in-built freshness sensors in packaging that alert customers when food goes bad, vacuum skin innovations, barrier bags and modified-atmosphere packaging.

3. Consumer Awareness Is Key

The end user or the customer who buys the food product for consumption also needs to be aware of good food use, preparation and storage methods.

Fresh veggies and fruits should be washed thoroughly, chopped, diced, and sliced, and stored in clear, airtight containers in the fridge. Prepare and cook raw foods like fish, poultry and meat to extend their storage life. Cooked food can be safely frozen for a long time. In addition, many food items like casseroles, soups, sauces, stir-fries and baked foods stay safe for cooking and consumption even beyond their typically assumed use-by date.

As responsible consumers, we must be aware of the difference between use-by, sell-by, best-before and expiration dates. This will prevent us from throwing away a whole lot of perfectly edible food items from our pantries.

Conclusion

Food safety is a matter of global concern and affects the well being of billions of people all over the world. Ensuring safety, hygiene, freshness and long shelf life of food items will help reduce food waste, hunger and starvation in the world. It will also reduce the burden on limited natural resources and will help ensure a sustainable and efficient food chain.

Gears

Three Practices for Supply Chain Management in the Food Industry

By Kevin Hill
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Gears

While building an effective logistics strategy, the end goal of supply chain management (SCM) needs to be kept in mind (i.e., allowing each member of the supply chain to achieve efficient inventory management as well as reach its customer service goals). To this end, it’s important to share information that will help each member achieve success. This includes data relating to demand forecasts, anticipated lead times and safety stock quantities. Let’s look at SCM best practices for food manufacturing and supply, and how this information plays a role.

Effective SCM: Best Practices for the Food Industry

Here’s an overview of SCM best practices in food supply and manufacturing:

Learn more about managing your supply chain at the Best Practices in Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5–6, 2017 | LEARN MOREDemand Forecasts. This is generally based on demand, sales or usage patterns in the past. However, future demand can be affected by changing situations such as:

  • Gaining/losing customers
  • Increased/decreased product popularity
  • Introduction of new products
  • Short-term increase in demand through promotions, etc.

Better estimates can be achieved with an effective derived demand or a CPFR (collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment) system. This can be done through automated data collection, or by the following process:

  • Identifying customers who can predict future demand (i.e., what they may use or sell in the future)
  • Collecting demand forecasts about specific products from them
  • Comparing these forecasts against their actual purchases on a monthly basis
  • Helping them improve future predictions by sharing this data with them

Customers may overestimate demand, but you might consider offering a discount based on accurate forecasts to encourage better results. In addition, you should also consider these five elements:

  • Usage patterns in the past, not including CPFR data
  • Increasing/decreasing product popularity trends
  • Higher/lower seasonal usage or demand
  • Events/promotions in the near future
  • Market and industry data from sources such as management, sales, etc.
Eva Almenar, MSU

Packaging Technique Could Help Produce Last Longer

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Eva Almenar, MSU
Eva Almenar, MSU
Eva Almenar and a team of researchers at Michigan State University may have found a way to make packaged produce last longer. (Image courtesy of University of Michigan)

Michigan State University (MSU) may have come up with a way to make packaged vegetables last much longer. After conducting an extensive evaluation of current techniques, researchers at MSU found that combining a package’s atmosphere of elevated carbon dioxide and reduced oxygen with a sanitizing treatment of sodium hydrochlorite could help ready-to-use onions last two weeks in a package (meaning that they were acceptable for purchase at this point). The results of the research, which was partially funded by USDA, were featured in an issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

“We focused on ready-to-use onions, which have grown to become one of the five most commonly sold vegetables in the last decade,” said Eva Almenar, MSU AgBioResearch scientist in a news release. “Of all the variations that we tested, this one reduced microbial growth, respiration and discoloration, and preserved the desired aroma.”

The packaging technique could have potential use with other vegetables as well. Almenar is also investigating gas composition packaging and containers made from renewable sources.

X-Ray Detector Technology Heightens Sensitivity

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Safeline X-ray technology. Image courtesy of Mettler Toledo
Safeline X-ray technology. Image courtesy of Mettler Toledo

A new X-ray detector technology features a 0.4-mm high-sensitivity detector that enables the integration of a 100-W X-ray generator. The technology, provided by Mettler Toledo, offers improved detection levels with a 20% power reduction under standard operating conditions.

The Safeline X-ray system includes software that “lends itself especially to ‘difficult’ or ‘busy’ images which contain varied density distribution, and is especially valuable for inspecting multi-textured foods and products that have a tendency to move around inside the packaging, such as boxes of cereal or bags of mixed nuts. In fact, detection sensitivity is unaffected by any type of packaging thus improving false rejection rates,” according to a company press release. The system enables the removal of contaminants before products leave a factory.

Randy Fields, Repositrak
FST Soapbox

What Comes After FSMA?

By Randy Fields
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Randy Fields, Repositrak

The initial deadlines for Food Safety Modernization Act implementation are upon us, and while it will be a year or more before companies must comply with the regulations, now is an appropriate  time to consider the happens next with food safety in the United States. Packaging requirements, issues with imports, the move toward clean labels, updating facility auditing requirements, and a wide set of compliance issues will be near-term time-consuming issues for food safety directors and executives all the way up to the c-suite.

FSMA is the most impactful set of safety regulations to hit the grocery and restaurant industries since before World War II. But there are other elements of consumer protection that will quickly capture the attention of supermarket and foodservice executives after August, and smart companies are already looking ahead to ensure a competitive advantage.

Packaging requirements aren’t just limited to country of origin labeling. Consumers are demanding full transparency from manufacturers and the retailers from which they buy their food. Shoppers are demanding clear descriptions of what they’re eating and voicing their displeasure for companies that are not providing the details they want by buying competitive items. A quick look at the comparative sales of the big processed food companies during the last few years verifies this isn’t a fad.

Tainted imported food (for both humans and pets) nearly a decade ago was a key trigger for the legislation that ultimately became FSMA. While the act addresses record keeping and some elements of lab testing, there are still several issues to tackle, including third-party validation rules and the voluntary program for importers that provides for expedited review and entry of foods.

The move toward clean labels or reducing the number of ingredients in processed food is taking form in several different ways. For example, many manufacturers, particularly those that make products targeting young consumers, are eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from their product lines to address consumer concern about the impact the ingredient is having on obesity and other health issues.

Updating facility auditing requirements, at retail, foodservice and manufacturing operations, has been largely left to trade associations and the companies themselves. A single incident of foodborne illness or death linked to a store commissary, a restaurant or a processing facility is all it will take for consumers to demand government action to raise standards and increase inspections.

On compliance issues, FSMA requires companies to collect verification data of their supply chain’s adherence to regulations for up two years and have it accessible within 24 hours. Similar to Sarbanes-Oxley, CEOs are responsible for verifying the compliance of their supply chain under FSMA.  Given these risks, companies have started to automate their management of compliance documentation. Now forward-thinking companies are applying the same technology to ensure that information supplied by trading partners on products such as gluten-free goods or items containing nuts is frequently updated to avoid lapses that could lead to lawsuits and worse.

There certainly are a few different visions of the future of food safety. One commonality is that consumers will continue to demand an even safer food supply chain.  If companies don’t pursue this goal, legal action or governmental regulation will step in to encourage change.

Color Choices When It Comes to Food

By Chelsey Davis
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When it comes to getting your product off the shelf and into consumers’ homes, color has a lot to do with first impressions. So when deciding on packaging or even food coloring, what colors should food manufacturers choose?

Color plays a huge role in how we decide what to eat. It’s often the first element noticed in the appearance of a food product and as humans, we begin to associate certain colors with various food types from birth. We then attribute these colors to certain tastes. For example, if something is bright red, we might assume it will taste like cherry or cinnamon. If something is bright green, we might expect that food product to taste like lime or apple. And when it comes to fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables, we rely on the color to determine the ripeness or freshness. So aside from expected taste, what else do colors mean when it comes to food?

Red – Appetizing: According to research, the color red is not only eye-catching, but also triggers appetite and is used on a majority of packaging designs. This is perhaps because the color, when found in natural foods like berries, indicates ripeness or sweetness.

Blue – Appetite Suppressant: Surprisingly, there are no true blue foods found in nature, and no, blueberries are actually a shade of purple! Blue, in relation to foods, is actually an appetite suppressant. This is why some weight loss plans suggest placing your food on a blue plate, or even dying your food blue to avoid overindulgence.

Yellow – Happiness: Yellow is perceived as the happiest color and is used widely in various food products. As such, yellow tends to evoke optimism and general good feelings. There are, however, speculations and disagreements when it comes to the artificial color of yellow in food products.

Green – Natural/Healthy: With sustainability and organic being at the top of mind for a large amount of consumers, green is making its way to becoming one of the more popular colors in the food supply chain (think green juice). The color green is now almost synonymous with health and well-being when it comes to food.

Orange – Satisfying/Energizing: One article states that orange is associated with foods that are hearty and satisfying, like breads, soups and potato products, but can also be seen as a source of energy.

Color choices when it comes to packaging

As mentioned above, color is the first thing we notice when it comes to appearance. In fact, more than 90% of purchase decisions are influenced by visual factors, and 85% of shoppers say that color is the primary reason for buying a product. With that in mind, understanding how color on packages dictates purchasing behavior is important to food manufacturers. While the descriptions of colors above represent how we feel towards food items, the colors on the packaging of those food items elicit completely different feelings. For example, seeing blue eggs on a plate versus purchasing eggs in blue packaging will evoke different emotions. Here’s how a few colors break down in terms of packaging:

Red – Energy: Red is a very bold color and using it in your packaging helps to draw attention to you product. Not only does it spark appetite, but it’s also the color we tend to look at first. This is why red is so popular among food packages.

Blue – Trust: Unlike the food color of blue, using blue in your packaging helps to portray trust and dependability in your product. It should be noted, however, that darker blues are considered more professional and serious, whereas lighter blues help to give the perception of softness and creativity.

Yellow – Optimistic: Yellow in packaging is very similar to yellow in food coloring. It helps to suggest that something is original or innovative, or that the product is cheaper/fun. With the positive energy of this color, we typically see it used to help attract children and young adolescents.

Green – Healthy: As with green in food coloring, green in packaging is also associated with healthy and organic products. With the increase in consumers being more aware of their health and what goes into their bodies, we are seeing green used in more and more product packaging.

Purple – Uniqueness: Using purple in your packaging helps to imply that your product is unique or original, and with purple being attributed to spirituality, it is often used in holistic products. It should also be noted that purple tends to be more attractive to females and the youth market, but is slowly making its way into acceptance within the male audience.

Orange – Affordability: Orange is often times used to portray value and affordability, and for food marketers, using orange on packaging helps to give the item a more affordable feel.

Black – Luxury: Black typically stands out on packaging and tends to appear heavier and more expensive, which transmits a higher perceived value. You can see this color used on items like premium ice creams and chip packages. And depending on what colors you choose to pair it with, black can give off various feelings.

Brown – Earthy: Brown tends to be used in products that want to portray a natural, wholesome or organic feel, as well as comfort and simplicity. We often see brown packaging in products that promote sustainability, proclaiming that the materials used to make the package were recycled.

White – Simple: White is viewed as simple, pure and basic, and is a good choice when attempting to create the impression of cleanliness, purity, efficiency or, of course, simplicity. And depending on the additional colors chosen to pair with white, you can give your packaging, or product, a completely different feel.

When it comes to getting your product off the shelf and into consumers’ homes, color has a lot to do with first impressions. So when deciding on packaging or even food coloring, make sure to pay close attention to the psychology behind color when it comes to purchasing behavior. Do you have additional tips on choosing colors for food items and packaging? Leave a comment below and let us know!

What’s Changing with Nutritional Labeling and Serving Sizes?

By Michael Biros
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Bailey Pudenz, Nutritional Coordinator at Eurofins Nutrition Analysis Center, explains what the proposed changes are, and how the labeling would need to change under the new requirements.

FDA has proposed changes to the current nutritional labeling. Currently both the proposed nutritional labeling and serving size rules are in comment period which will close June 2, 2014. Once the final rule is published, it will become law 60 days after the publication date. Industry will then have two years to achieve compliance.

Calories

Calories, calories from saturated fat, the 2000 calorie reference, and percent daily value for calories will remain the same. However, calories from fat will be removed completely. FDA wants consumers to be more aware of the amount and type of fat they eat rather than the calories the fat contributes.

Fat

Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, poly and monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol will remain the same. FDA considered changing the cutoff value for declaration of zero trans fat, but they have chosen not to change this either. Currently this value is 0.5g per serving. Anything less than this can be declared as zero. FDA is not allowing mandatory or voluntary declaration of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

Carbohydrates

There are no proposed changes to mandatory declaration or daily reference value for total carbohydrates. However, FDA has proposed changing the name to total carbs. Other carbohydrates, such as starches, are no longer allowed to be voluntarily declared on the label.

FDA is also proposing to change the calories from carbohydrates calculation. The calories from carbohydrates would then be used to calculate the total calorie content in the product. This proposal would exclude soluble and insoluble non-digestible carbohydrates from the calculation. Calories from carbohydrates would then be calculated using 4kcal/g less the amount of non-digestible carbohydrates. Soluble carbohydrates will then be added at a value of 2 kcal/g.

Sugars

There are no proposed changes to mandatory declaration or daily reference value for sugars. However, the name will be changed to total sugars and and a new category of added sugars will be mandatory to declare. FDA has developed an extensive list of what is considered an added sugar: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, maltose, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, turbinado, sugar, and sucrose. FDA acknowledges that there is no analytical method available to determine added sugars and will rely on ingredient records to determine the amount and type of added sugars. There are no proposed changes to sugar alcohols.

Dietary fiber

Dietary fiber will still be mandatory to declare, however FDA is proposing to increase the daily reference value to 28g per day. They will adopt the Institute of Medicine’s definition of total fiber which focuses on fiber that is beneficial to human health. There are no proposed changes to soluble or insoluble dietary fiber. 

Protein and Sodium

There are no proposed changes to protein. Sodium is still mandatory to list and FDA is considering lowering the daily reference value from 2400mg to 2300mg.

Essential Vitamins

Vitamins A and C will no longer be mandatory to declare on the label, but can still be voluntarily listed. Vitamin D will be mandatory to declare. FDA has proposed changing the units for vitamin A from IU to µg RAE (Retinol Activity Equivalents) and for vitamin D from IU to µg.

Vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, and pantothenic acid will still be voluntary to declare. FDA is proposing the voluntary labeling of choline. The units for vitamin E will be changed from IU to mg. Folate/folic acid will still be voluntary, but they will no longer be interchangeable and the units will be changed from µg to µg DFE (Dietary Folate Equivalents). Niacin is still voluntary to declare, but the units will be changed from mg to mg NE (Niacin Equivalents).

Vitamins
Current RDIs
Proposed RDIs
Biotin
300 µg
30 µg
Choline
550 µg
550 µg
Folate 
400 µg
400 µg DFE
Niacin 
20 mg  
16 mg NE
Pantothenic Acid 
10 mg  
5 mg 
Riboflavin 
1.7 mg 
1.3 mg 
Thiamin 
1.5 mg 
1.2 mg
Vitamin A 
5000 IU 
900 µg RAE
Vitamin B6 
2.0 mg 
1.7 mg
Vitamin B12 
6 µg 
2.4 µg
Vitamin C 
60 mg 
90 mg
Vitamin D 
400 IU 
20 µg
Vitamin E 
30 IU 
15 mg
Vitamin K 
80 µg 
120 µg

Essential minerals

Calcium and iron will both remain mandatory to declare. It will be required to declare potassium. 

Phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and chloride will still be voluntary to declare. Fluoride will be voluntary to declare and FDA is not defining a daily reference value. 

Minerals
Current RDIs
Proposed RDIs
Calcium
1000 mg
1300 mg
Chloride
3400 mg
2300 mg
Chromium
120 µg
35 µg
Copper
2.0 mg
0.9 mg
Iodine
150 µg
150 µg
Iron
18 mg
18 mg
Magnesium
400 mg
420 mg
Manganese
2.0 mg
2.3 mg
Molybendum
75 µg
45 µg
Phosphorus
1000 mg
1250 mg
Potassium
3500 mg
4700 mg
Selenium
70 µg
55 µg
Zinc
15 mg
11 mg

Serving sizes

Changes to RACCs (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed) were proposed if consumption data increased or decreased by 25 percent or more. Based on this, about 17 percent of the RACCs will change. FDA will also be adding 25 new RACC categories. Changes in the RACC can potentially change claims such as “low fat” or “a good source of calcium.”

FDA has proposed specifications for how to determine servings per container. Products containing 200 percent or less than the RACC are considered a single serving. Products containing 200-400 percent of the RACC can be labeled with dual columns (single serving and per container). Products with more than 400 percent of the RACC are multi-serving.

  

Nutrition Labels – Old and New
Nutrition-Label-Old-May-2014 Nutrition-Label-New-May-2014

Formatting

Calories and servings per container will be increased in size. The location of servings per container and serving size will be switched. Serving size will be right justified. The phrasing of amount per serving will be changed to include the serving size. Calories from fat will be removed. Percent daily value will be located on the left side of the label. Added sugars will be included below sugars. Mandatory vitamins and minerals will have quantitative amounts in addition to percent daily value. FDA is requesting comments on how the footnotes should be adjusted.