Enhancing Packaging Safety for Food

Packaging is a key link in the food supply system and is as important as any other ingredient. The primary package material contains, and touches food products so it must be safe for its intended purpose. Secondary packaging has the role of bundling and shipping the product and because it directly houses the primary package and enters the food facility, must be free from contaminates. As packaging is a potential source of pathogens, allergens, and chemical and physical hazards, food companies need to know that their packaging suppliers have implemented effective preventative controls.

Assessing the Safety of Packaging Materials for Food 

The role of packaging first and foremost is to protect products throughout their entire life cycle. The primary and secondary packaging materials should be assessed for their intended application. Furthermore, the materials must meet regulatory compliance in the markets they are sold.

Allergens can be introduced by materials and their additives. Food companies can ask their packaging suppliers to provide Safety Data Sheets that describe potential hazards in their materials and demonstrate that they have determined the suitability for the foods being packaged. The suppliers should also take measures to ensure allergens are controlled during production, handling, storage, and distribution.

Biological, chemical, allergen, and physical hazards can be found all along the packaging supply chain, therefore, how materials are produced, stored, handled, and shipped must be assessed for risk. Good manufacturing practices should eliminate the hazards or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

The potential for chemical contamination from, and migration through, the materials should be identified as well. Ingredients such as oils, acids, and other additives, may alter the composition of the package creating a risk to the food it is supposed to protect.

How the package stands up to the food processing conditions should be tried and tested through the entire supply chain. Temperature, pressure, compression, moisture, and other conditions can impact the durability and barrier properties of the materials.

It is also important to determine how the consumer will use the package to consider the potential risk during storage and preparation. The package must be safe for consumers until its end of life.

Traceability for Packaging Materials 

Packaging traceability in our food supply is essential to ensure companies can quickly and efficiently identify all potential sources of a food safety issue.

Tracing the product through the supply system involves tracking ingredients (including packaging), processes, storage, and distribution to pinpoint when and where the food became compromised. A reliable traceability system helps prevent further foodborne illness and injury by identifying the source.

A robust system to meet the requirements for traceability may be a challenge for many packaging manufacturers because this has not been a requirement in the past. It is important to ask packaging vendors about their ability to trace your products through the entire process.

The End-to-end Packaging Traceability System

A traceability system for packaging identifies each material and process that impacts the integrity of the product.  This includes:

  • Materials – resins, films, paper, metal, glass, other materials
  • Inputs - coatings, inks, glues, wrapping materials, boxes
  • Processing – production by shift
  • Storage - work in process and finished goods, quarantined products, rework
  • Distribution – shipping to customer

Packaging materials must be traceable by lot number, and this includes test materials, rework, and outsourced products. A proven and tested system enables investigators to detect the source of contamination so that a root cause analysis can be performed, and corrective actions taken, to prevent reoccurrence.


The IFS PACsecure standard is designed to help packaging companies implement preventative controls and traceability systems to provide safe and trusted packaging.


IFS Certification is accepted by brand owners worldwide!

Retailers are more likely to choose vendors who have proven preventative measures and traceability throughout their supply system as this gives them confidence in the integrity of the products they purchase.

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