The key role of equipment and packaging in food safety

As food companies are constantly looking for ways to control food safety risks, they increasingly recognize the need to ensure that their processes are fully validated and verified on an ongoing basis to be doing what they are supposed to do to control risk. They realize that they must control environmental risk and especially allergen risk.

Below are some of the key areas food production and packaging professionals should expect their equipment and packaging manufacturers to focus on in order to help production and packaging facilities maintain leadership in FSMA compliance:

Design equipment that is focused on “built-in FSMA compliance needs.” Considerations include…

• Systems that can be easily validated.
• Systems that provide the key monitoring data that will determine the verification of validated systems as they operate to control risk.
• Systems that allow the electronic capture of data for the ongoing new record-keeping requirements.
• Systems that can be built into product tracking systems.

Ensure that equipment can be readily cleaned to avoid environmental contamination concerns. Considerations include…

•  Being sensitive to the growing need to address allergens. This includes features for easy equipment cleanup (dry or wet), as well as fail-safe mechanisms to ensure the correct label is applied.
•  Designing systems that facilitate the gathering of ingredient and finished product information to ensure accurate and easy capture of product tracking data.
•  Having a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory requirements around food packing and Food Contact Substances, defined as:

“Any substance intended for use as a component of materials used in manufacturing, packing, packaging, transporting, or holding food if such use is not intended to have any technical effect
in such food.”

Examples of food-contact substances include polymers (plastic packaging materials), pigments, and antioxidants used in polymers, can coatings, adhesives, materials used during the manufacture of paper and paperboard, slimicides and biocides (antimicrobial agents), and sealants for lids and caps.”

Packaging and equipment companies that are sensitive and knowledgeable about the current pressures on food companies will have a market advantage in this growing area of complexity and the need to protect brands.

About the author: In addition to his role as CEO of The Acheson Group, the author has served as Associate Commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as Chief Medical Officer for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

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