Food packaging safety: the European challenge
Food safety is a major concern of the European Union, which is constantly striving to ensure that the food consumed in Europe is safe. However, food safety is not only limited to the food itself, but also to the packaging that contains it.
In this respect, the EU has specific legislation to ensure the safety of food packaging. But what materials are safe for food packaging, how are technologies being developed to improve its safety, and what are the challenges ahead?
In this article, we explore the European challenge of ensuring food packaging safety, from its legal framework to the latest technological innovations and the challenges that lie ahead.
EU food safety legal framework
The requirements set out in this European regulation include the following:
- Compatibility: Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food must not transfer their components to food in quantities that could endanger human health.
- Inertness: Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food must not react chemically with food or alter its organoleptic characteristics (colour, flavour, aroma, texture, etc.).
- Stability: Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food must not undergo changes in composition or structure during use that could endanger human health.
- Purity: Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food must be free from substances that are toxic or harmful to human health in quantities that could endanger human health.
The specific requirements for food packaging safety in Europe are very strict and aim to ensure that materials and articles intended to come into contact with food do not present a danger to human health.
Safe food packaging materials
Plastic: Plastic is one of the most widely used materials in food packaging due to its low cost, light weight and resistance to breakage. However, some plastics may contain additives that are harmful to health, such as bisphenol A (BPA). For this reason, the EU has established specific regulations for plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, in order to ensure their safety.
Paper and cardboard: Paper and cardboard are biodegradable and recyclable materials commonly used in food packaging such as bags, boxes and trays. These materials are safe for food contact and can be treated with coatings to improve their strength and durability.
Glass: Glass is an inert, non-toxic, recyclable material commonly used in food packaging for beverages, canned foods and powdered products. Glass is resistant to the transfer of odours and flavours, making it suitable for storing food and beverages.
Metal: Metal, such as aluminium and steel, is commonly used in food packaging for canned foods, canned beverages and other products. Metal containers are strong, durable and lightweight, and are also recyclable.
Each of these materials has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is important that they are used safely and in compliance with specific requirements set by the EU to ensure food safety.
Technological innovations for improving food packaging safety
There are a number of technological innovations that could improve the safety of food packaging:
Smart packaging: These packages incorporate technologies that can detect and respond to changes in food and environmental conditions. For example, they can incorporate time and temperature indicators to alert the consumer when the food has passed its use-by date or has been exposed to unsafe temperatures.
Smart labels: Smart labels are a technology applied directly to food packaging that provides real-time information about the quality and safety of the food. For example, they can include sensors that detect gases produced by food decomposition and indicate when the food has expired.
Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology is used to improve the properties of food packaging materials. For example, nanoparticles can be used to create antimicrobial packaging films that reduce the growth of microorganisms in food.
3D printing technology: 3D printing technology is used to create customised food packaging tailored to the specific needs of consumers. In addition, this technology allows the creation of complex shapes and designs that can be more effective in protecting the food.
The safety of food packaging is a major concern worldwide, which is why continuous research and development of new technologies is essential to ensure food safety.
At CALITEC we are committed to this goal and work closely with existing regulations to improve the quality and safety of the food we consume.
Find out more about us on our website.