UK Regulations for Food and Drink Packaging: Key Considerations

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Not only must your packaging provide enough information for hygienic and safe handling, it must also meet the basic standards for import and export.

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It’s not surprising there are strict rules governing the packaging of food for delivery with the UK or for export. Not only must your packaging provide enough information for hygienic and safe handling, it must also meet the basic standards for import and export.

While the Food Standards Agency can offer comprehensive information pertaining to the requirements of EC Regulation No 1935/2004, the following will give a brief overview of key food and drink packaging considerations.

The Three Types of Food Packaging

The packaging of food and safety of food in transit is the primary consideration when looking at packaging types. Firstly, there’s transport or export packaging. This is the outermost layer of your packaging and its primary purpose is to protect food while it’s being transported.

Beneath this is a second layer, known as outer packaging. This is typically a box containing the bags, tins, or other containers that hold the food itself. Finally, sales packaging is the layer immediately surrounding the food or drink product.

Avoiding Contamination From Packaging

This is the overriding rule behind all legislation surrounding food packaging. If you’re packaging food, it’s vital that any chemical or other elements of the food packaging are not able to migrate with the food itself.

Not only is this designed to protect human health, it’s also in place to ensure that food and drink remains of the highest quality. This doesn’t end with the packaging itself, as there are also legal requirements surrounding the documentation of good manufacturing process within business areas where food is packaged.

Recognising Approved Food Packaging

Before you consider choosing food packaging from an unknown packaging provider, check their packaging has been approved. This is easily identifiable through the wine glass and fork symbol printed on the packaging. If you see this alongside the term ‘for food contact’, you know the packaging is safe.

Understanding Aluminium

Aluminium packaging is generally considered safe for the containment of food. However, highly acidic food such as tomatoes and soft fruits may not react well with aluminium.

Understanding Plastics

Plastics have a legal migration limit of 10 milligram per square decimetre of plastic surface area or per kilogram of food. Numerous other migration limits apply to plastics monomers or plastics additives that are frequently used. As plastic-packaged food moves through the supply chain, you will be subject to further legislation.

Packaging Products of Animal Origin (POAO)

As well as strict rules surrounding the quality of POAO,  there are also strict rules surrounding identification marking and dating of these products. This mark must state the country of origin for the product and the approval number of the establishment it came from.

Depending on the POAO, the mark can be placed on the product itself or on the sales packaging. As well as this identification mark being present when the POAO is initially packaged, it must be reapplied should packaging be removed during any stage of the food supply chain.

Avoiding Contamination From Chemicals

Chemical contamination of food can happen in a number of ways and at any stage of the food supply process. Some examples include pesticides, cleaning chemicals, fumes from transportation vehicles, chemicals from metals, and organic chemicals that occur in raw foods. Packaging should be of a high enough quality to withstand any occurrence of chemicals around food, and raw or pungent foods should be packaged in separate areas.

Avoiding Bacteria

Due to historic outbreaks of bacterial infections such as E. coli 0157, there are a number of rules in place to ensure such bacteria doesn’t cross-contaminate food. Packaging materials should be stored in a place where they won’t come into contact with bacteria that contaminates food.

Similarly, any food packaging equipment used to package raw food cannot be used to package ready-to-eat food. There are some rules surrounding this, but given most businesses are unlikely to dismantle their food packaging machines on a regular basis, they are beyond the scope of this article.

At Marpak Extrusions we pride ourselves on providing packaging that meets and exceeds health and safety regulations. Get in touch with us today by calling 0113 277 5518 or contact us online. 

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