Food safety requires protective materials and processes working in concert to keep food fresh inside and guard against outside contaminants making their way in. Flexible packaging gives food manufacturers a variety of choices that work for products with different natures, such as dry goods, oily foods, and beverages. It is not one solution, but many.
Details such as storage temperature, sterilization process, and transportation conditions all help define what each food product needs. With flexible packaging, chances are there is an effective, economical, and dependable material or combination of materials that ensure food safety.
Here are four key factors to consider in your food safety and packaging strategy.
#1: Different Barrier Films Have Different Types of Protection
Every flexible film is a barrier of some type. The difference is in performance.
Polypropylene is one of the most common films, often used as bread packaging. But it is not as durable or protective as some others. LLDPE can offer a high rate of oxygen transfer, making it ideal for fresh vegetables that need oxygen. However, for food where oxygen is an enemy, PET helps block transfer. It is also heat resistant and lends itself to laminating.
Lamination lets you customize flexible packaging by bonding two or more layers of materials. For example, PET with a metalized film blocks UV rays, oxygen transfer, and moisture.
#2: Flexible Film is Only as Good as Its Seal
The power of flexible film and laminated films to ensure food safety hinges on the packaging seal. Packaging may be sealed using an adhesive or heat and pressure. Without a strong, consistent seal, contamination, spoilage, and product loss are likely.
Leak tests, says New Food Magazine, cover the whole package—barrier film and seal—to measure packaging integrity. Weave in additional demands, such as retort processes, and packaging seals become at least as important as the balance of the packaging.
#3: Modern Machinery Collects and Analyzes Data for Better Packaging Product Control
Instead of learning after the fact that there is a seal defect or another manufacturing issue that affects food safety, modern manufacturing and filling machinery monitor the system in real time. If there is a flaw, the whole line may be shut down while the defect is corrected, minimizing product loss.
Data helps clarify what is working like it should and what is not. Today and in the future, historical data can be analyzed and used to develop better packaging and processes. Data can also help pinpoint both the time of a defective run and the volume of packages affected by it. This fits into the Four Elements of an Effective Food Safety Management System, says Food Processing, through "instant traceability and recall management."
#4: Storage Temperatures Can Alter Transfer and Shelf Life
The higher the temperature, the less resistant packaging may be to oxygen transfer and deterioration. New Food Magazine says that an understanding of storage conditions, especially temperature as it relates to packaging integrity enables a more accurate shelf life estimation.
The higher the storage temperature, the higher the rate of transfer or migration. With a higher rate of transfer, shelf life diminishes. Higher temperatures may also affect whether and to what degree laminate adhesives migrate through packaging to contaminate the food.
Food safety has a lot of moving parts, each one affecting the others. With flexible film, you have an array of choices and combinations that protect against migration and spoilage. There is likely one that is better suited for the food, storage conditions, shelf life demands, and budgetary restrictions with which you work.
Download our corporate brochure today and learn more about the possibilities with flexible films. We will show you why food manufacturers around the world are either using it already or moving in that direction.