Thursday, 19 January 2012

Food Packaging & Labelling

Food packaging protects and preserves food. A range of materials can be used for packaging, some of which are environmentally friendly. Labels carry information for the consumer. Some of this information is required by law.

Packaging functions

The main purposes of food packaging are:
to preserve the product
to protect the product from damage
to make the product more attractive to the consumer
to make it easier to transport the product

Packaging materials
Plastics

Plastics are widely used in food packaging because they are:
versatile - plastics can be flexible or rigid, and can be moulded into shapes.
resistant to acids and other chemicals
easy to print on
lightweight
cheap to produce

(Note: not all plastics have all the above qualities.)
Modified-Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Air in a plastic container can be modified to prolong shelf life and slow down colour deterioration.

MAP is used to package:
cold meats
smoked fish
cheeses
salads
fresh pasta
Other packaging materials

Paper, card, metal and glass can also be used for packaging.
Advantages, disadvantages and uses of different types of materials.

Glass
 
Advantages
- reusable
- heat-resistant
- recyclable
- keeps shape
- low cost

Disadvantages
- fragile
- safety issues
- heavy 

Uses
- baby foods
- salad cream
- pickles

Metal

Advantages
- recyclable
- lightweight
- impermeable
- withstands heat processing

Disadvantages
- may react with food 

Uses
- soup cans
- take-away containers
- bottle tops

Card/paper
Advantages
- easy to print on
- cheap to produce
- biodegradable
- recyclable
- can be moulded
- can be coated
- lightweight 

Disadvantages
- not water-resistant
- easily damaged 

Uses
- fruit-juice cartons
- egg boxes


Environmentally friendly packaging
Environmentally friendly packaging causes less damage to the environment. 
There are three types:

Reusable packaging can be cleaned and re-used. For example, glass milk bottles are reused.
Recyclable packaging is made of materials that can be used again, usually after processing. Recyclable materials include glass, metal, card and paper.
Biodegradable packaging will easily break down in the soil or the atmosphere.

Recyclable packaging should carry standard symbols that show what the product is made from and how it can be recycled.


Layers of packaging
There are three levels of packaging.



Primary packaging
is seen at the point of sale. It needs to contain and protect the food product, as well as display it and provide information.
Secondary packaging is the middle layer of packaging - for example a cardboard box with a number of identical products inside.
Transit packaging is the outer container that allows easier handling during transfer between factory, distribution centres and retailers.


Labelling
The Food Labelling Regulations of 1996 require certain information to be given on all pre-packed foods. These requirements are written by the EU.


Food labelling


Food labelling on a can of peas - nutritional value, customer guarantee, manufacturer's name and address, best before date, batch code, bar code, storage instructions, cooking and heating instructions, opening instructions and ingredients




These are the items on the label that are required by law.

manufacturer's name and contact details
name of the product
description of the product
weight (some foods are exempt, for example bread)
ingredients (listed in descending order of weight)
cooking/heating instructions
storage instructions
shelf life
place of origin
allergy information

The following items are not legal requirements, but are nevertheless good practice and often included on packaging:

illustration of product
price
nutritional values of the product
customer guarantee
the batch-code and bar-code numbers
opening instructions

Nutritional InformationThe Food Standards Agency devised a traffic light system to make it easier for consumers to know the nutritional content of food.

Nutritional software can be used to analyse the nutritional content of foods.


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