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Progress on two fronts

Less than a year after the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging was formed as a division of the IoPP, it’s encouraging to see that there is progress to report where FSAP’s goals are concerned.

As you may recall, FSAP was formed partly because more and more food manufacturers were beginning to wish that their packaging materials providers had something resembling a HACCP plan in place. HACCP, of course, stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, which is a systematic way to guard against the possibility of hazards in food plants that could pose a threat to public health. HACCP is pretty well established by now among food companies, and there’s even talk of emerging legislation that might make it more than a voluntary initiative for those companies. The purpose behind the FSAP—formed by CPG companies and food safety associations in the U.S. and Canada—was to bring an awareness of HACCP concepts and practices to the package manufacturing sector, i.e., the firms that make the cartons, cases, bottles, and jars that contain food manufacturers’ products.

The progress I referred to at the top of this column is unfolding at Atlantic Packaging Products Ltd., a Toronto-based producer of corrugated that has earned PACsecure HACCP certification. The PACsecure standard was developed over the past six years by an 80-member committee of The Packaging Association (formerly the Packaging Association of Canada) in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

According to James Downham, president and CEO of The Packaging Association, the PACsecure standards are the most comprehensive food safety standards for packaging materials in the world. “They have already been approved by the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging,” says Downham.

Back to what’s been happening at Atlantic Packaging. In the past few years, management at Atlantic has watched the container volume that it produces shift to food and beverage producers and away from major industrial accounts. Recognizing that it made strategic sense to focus on food and beverage producers for future growth, Atlantic undertook a corporate strategic initiative that Perter Garvey, vice president of sales and marketing for Atlantic’s corrugated division, describes as “a combined sales, marketing, and manufacturing action plan based on the most important requirements of our existing customers.” At Atlantic’s Mississauga facility, the first of Atlantic’s converting plants to gain PACsecure HACCP certification, plant manager Dan Elliott puts it this way: “In order to meet our customer’s future corrugated packaging needs, we had to become more like them in terms of process security and plant hygiene.”

Long story short: The Mississauga plant is now spic and span. Change doesn’t come easy, and revising a workplace culture to this extent didn’t come without some pushback. But determined leadership and total commitment from top management helped bring about the changes needed. Plant operation routines now in place ensure that Atlantic’s customers receive the highest possible packaging quality through machine and facility cleanliness and hygienic handling practices. Customers have taken notice. “We’re pleased to see Atlantic being progressive,” says Steven James, head of procurement for PepsiCo Foods Canada. “The HACCP credential has given us added assurance that their packaging can deliver wholesomeness and food safety into our manufacturing environments.”

Meanwhile, in the education part of the packaging arena, another kind of progress continues being made thanks to the PMMI Student Contest. This year’s winner, announced at Pack Expo, was Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College—New Richmond. By coming up with the simplest and most economical solution to a hypothetical conveying system problem, the WITC team of Tony Aubart, Chelsea Lambert, Steve Volkert, and Matthew Woehrman won a first-place prize of $4,000. By engaging the next generation of packaging professionals in this way, PMMI helps pave the way to a future where packaging’s potential is more fully realized.

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