What Actually Is ‘Food Grade’ Packaging?
As we know, an outstanding amount of our food today comes in packaging, from plastic, cardboard, metal, tin and paper, packaging protects nearly everything we eat keeping it safe. But what is it that makes our food packaging ‘food grade’?
Invopak, a wholesale packaging supplier, dives into the science behind food-grade packaging, what it contains and how to distinguish it from non-food-safe packaging.
Food-grade packaging is distinguished by its adherence to specific criteria, ensuring it is made from inert materials that won’t react with food. The five key properties that all food-grade packaging shares include:
- Material Stability – Utilising inert materials like Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) to prevent chemical reactions with food.
- Fit-for-Purpose – Choosing packaging based on its intended use, with rigid packaging being optimal for bulk shipping due to superior puncture resistance.
- Non-Toxic – Ensuring no toxic coatings, dyes, or additives that may be harmful are present, in compliance with regulations.
- Certified – Adhering to regulatory standards set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and displaying the Food and Beverage Packaging logo as a mark of approval.
- Sealable – Employing various sealing measures such as tamper-evident tabs and heat seals to maintain the safety of contents during transit.
Food Safe vs. Food Grade
It’s important to understand the difference between “Food Grade” and “Food Safe.” “Food Grade” focuses on the material’s quality, ensuring it lacks toxins and contaminants. Meanwhile, “Food Safe” pertains to the final product, ensuring it not only uses food-grade materials but is also suitable for its intended use. This takes into account factors like temperature, how long it comes into contact with food, and how easily it can be cleaned.
Variety of Food-Grade Packaging
The categories of food-grade packaging are separated into two main types: flexible packaging and rigid packaging.
Flexible Packaging: Comprising soft plastics, paper, and foil, it is ideal for sealing final products against external elements but may require additional secondary packaging for transportation.
Rigid Packaging: Crafted from hard materials like metal, glass, and hard plastic, it offers the highest level of protection, making it suitable for shipping consumables in bulk and direct storage on supermarket shelves.
Understanding the Three Types of Food Packaging
Food packaging is typically categorised into three types: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
- Primary Packaging: Directly in contact with the product, it includes soft (mesh fruit bags, pouches) and rigid (food tins, plastic buckets) options.
- Secondary Packaging: The next layer, providing branding and additional information, is often seen in products like cereal boxes.
- Tertiary Packaging: Designed for transportation, safeguarding primary and secondary packaging during transit, usually made from cardboard or shrink wrap.
In conclusion, food packaging serves as a crucial guardian of product quality by efficiently and cost-effectively protecting contents, extending shelf life, and promoting brand recognition. Additionally, it plays a vital role in regulatory compliance by displaying essential information to meet legal obligations. These four primary functions collectively underscore the indispensable role of food packaging in the modern food industry.