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Food Packaging: How to Gain Consumers’ Trust in the Age of Transparency

Food Packaging: How to Gain Consumers’ Trust in the Age of Transparency

Consumers and food experts are growing more aware of the food packaging process and are expressing concerns over the safety of some packaging.

Being immersed in the age of technology, consumers have access to endless amounts of information, and in the food industry this can act as a double-edged sword. In 2018, food recalls hit an all-time high, quadrupling over the last five years. When we think of modern day consumerism, many of us envision a generation of shoppers who are well informed about the food products they purchase. Recent research has found that in North America the average consumer is more likely to prioritize their health even if it requires spending more money on food of higher quality.

But could it be more than food that consumers are concerned about? Could consumers be interested in the packaging that contains the food itself? According to Food Safety Magazine, consumers and food experts are growing more aware of the food packaging process and are expressing concerns over the safety of some of this packaging. For example, recycled fibers that carry harmful chemicals could be exposed to food during the manufacturing process involved in packaging food items.

When we think of the term recycling, we often associate with a positive and environmentally friendly process to have our waste to be reprocessed into another resource. But according to Food Safety Magazine, recycling fiber derived from people’s homes can carry leftover debris such as lacquers, printing ink, and different types of adhesives that could be harmful to human health if used for material in food packaging.

Furthermore, in paper packaging production, sometimes chemicals like fluorinated compounds can be found in recyclable pulp that is used as a grease barrier that is popular in food packaging to stop water and liquids from passing through and dampening the food.

Although pulp and paper regulations vary from country to country, most government entities have some sort of legislation that restricts the use of recycled fiber in food packaging. When a recycled fiber is used for food products, it must undergo numerous examinations in the lab to ensure that it won’t contaminate the food product in a way that would jeopardize human health.

In a Chemistry Considerations document, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) highlights a set of recommendations and procedures for manufacturers to follow when dealing with chemical contaminants found in recycled plastic used in food packaging, however these guidelines are not legally enforced.

In EU countries there is no specific legislation to follow, but a common standard that all EU members are responsible for respecting since each country has its own laws that vary throughout jurisdictions.  The EU has a mix of principles, frameworks, and manufacturing standards that cover the food packing safety standard. These standards include the provisions that no substances should surpass a level of contamination that would harm consumers’ health, packaging used for food should not alter the flavor or smell of the product, and products imported from large exporters like China must follow the EU regulations in regard to kitchenware and other food containers.

Countries like Switzerland exceed the European Union’s food packing standards by being even more specific with there food ink policy. According to EuPIA’s guidelines, the Swiss Consumer Goods Ordinance is a list that includes certain ingredients that can only be used for ink involved in the manufacturing process of food packaging. Other European countries like Germany are also undergoing the process of establishing similar guidelines.

Hyper-aware consumers who have a growing curiosity for the food industry could create some pressure for food companies to keep up with transparency in food packaging. According to HAVI Global Solutions, a service for packaging supply chains in the US, 70 percent of 500 Americans surveyed think that clean packaging is just as essential to consumers as clean food. This may persuade food policymakers to create an official standard in the future.