Packaging Advice

COVID-19: The importance of food packaging and traceability for consumer safety

3 mins

Tracing the journey of a food product from beginning to end continues to be increasingly important to consumers, grocery retailers and their supply partners. In fact, the troubles of COVID-19 have accelerated the demand for traceable foods even further.

With this growing consumer demand, changing regulatory requirements, and increase in complexity of food supply chains globally, effective traceable food packaging has simply become a must.

Why trace the movement of food through the entire supply chain?

Not only does traceability reduce the potential widespread impact that infected food products can have on consumers, but lowers the risk of food fraud, which poses a serious health risk to the public.

If something goes wrong (and unnoticed) within the supply chain, thousands of consumers could be impacted, causing various health and financial problems. From infestation, to aflatoxins and contamination, a traceability system allows for products to be quickly located at any stage of the supply chain, meaning an efficient recall can take place.

How food is being traced from farm to store

Currently, various methods and technologies have and are being implemented to help trace food ingredients. This includes simple printed stickers on packaging through to stamps, real-time sensors, and cutting-edge blockchain technologies.

Food traceability systems add a sense of transparency to products, and depend on six individual elements:

  1. Product traceability – this refers to the location of the product during the production process.
  2. Process traceability – how was the food produced? How was it transformed and what was used in the process?
  3. Input traceability – this looks at the additional supplements used for growing the ingredients, i.e fertiliser.
  4. Genetic makeup
  5. Diseases and pests – if any could have come in contact with the product
  6. Measurement standards – how the products have been tested, i.e quality tests

Yes, there are several aspects to tracing a single product, but doing so assures we know exactly what’s in our products and any potential risks that could appear.

The new FSMA rule to advance traceability of foods

As of September 21 2020, the FDA released a key FSMA rule to advance the traceability of foods. The rule has been published to help better establish linkages throughout the supply chain during a foodborne illness outbreak investigation, and to efficiently identify potential sources of contamination.

This rule has major direct and indirect effects on two types of packaging, and more specifically, labelling:

  1. Packaging that touches food, such as sleeves and empty cans.
  2. Outer packaging as shipped to or received by another businesses.

For packaging that touches food directly, it’s treated as food itself in FDA 306. Meaning when a cap, bottle, or lid touches food, they become food from an FDA point of view.

With outer packaging, labelling requires lot numbers or manufacturing dates. The receiver is then required to collect and store this information. From here, they are able to track the given product through production and shipment, where they must replay that same level of information to their customer.

For more information on the FDA’s FSMA rule, see their latest announcement here. They explore how traceability changes can help prevent illnesses, the approaches of effective traceability systems, and the benefits of better traceability.

If you require further information on food and drinks packaging, and how packaging solutions can be used to help improve your food traceability, contact our expert team at Swiftpak today, we’d be more than happy to help.