Food packaging

Reducing Risk through Proper Testing of Food Packaging Materials

From processing to retail to the consumer’s table, responsible food packaging supports food quality and safety. Regulatory compliance including scrupulous migration testing helps stop contamination in its tracks and keeps food safer throughout every stage of its intended life.

Flexible food packaging plays a growing, rapidly innovating role in the industry. According to Ashland Specialty Ingredients regulatory compliance manager, Joseph A. Spinnato III, at Food Manufacturing, the market share has expanded approximately 4 percent annually since 2010.

With the rush to embrace flexible films for foods and beverages, ongoing compliance and migration testing are vital.

No Flexible Packaging Film is a Universally Failsafe Migration Barrier

Each flexible packaging film in use today has unique characteristics. For example, linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) is a common barrier film, but Spinnato explains that it’s not appropriate for every food product under every environmental influence.

Even some of the common metallized films, he explains, can fail to perform as a functional barrier under the wrong circumstances. The only way to determine performance is through migration testing.

Food packaging

Testing is an ongoing process that evaluates every known migration influence.

Migration Testing Carries Numerous Variables 

Migration barrier efficacy is influenced by numerous factors, some of which are the chemical makeup of the barrier and the food product, the temperature at which the product is stored, and the reaction of the polymer to temperature changes such as heating or freezing. Because products and conditions vary, one test is not sufficient for determining film packaging fitness for use.

Time, temperature, and the type of food contained all influence packaging fitness, says Spinnato in another article on the subject. Each factor can increase migration on its own, in varying degrees under different conditions. Only through migration testing and consistent food packaging regulatory compliance can the manufacturer, retailer, and end user have a reasonable assurance of food safety.

Strict Record Keeping Ensures Consistently Improving Results

If the factors affecting migration are understood, appropriate intervention can prevent food contamination. Compliance and migration testing effectiveness depend on consistent record keeping. With a clear chain of recorded results, manufacturers can spot packaging film performance inconsistencies and trace them to one or more factors.

The SQF Code explains that food packaging materials should never contribute to a food safety risk, and that record keeping enables auditing. Manufacturers that adhere to SQF Certification regulations have a robust record keeping strategy in place.

Consumers are highly engaged with retailers as well as food manufacturers. They prefer flexible packaging and have an acute awareness of contamination issues that compromise food safety. However, well before a food product gets to a consumer, its ingredients and constituent parts are handled and stored in multiple containers, all of which must comply with food safety standards.

Migration can occur with any flexible packaging film under the right conditions, which makes regulatory compliance and migration testing central to food safety now and in the years to come.  Download our food packaging product and pricing brochure and learn how we help mitigate migration through a wide range of food-safe films.