Technologies to create better packaging Technology is taking food safety to the next level by enhancing the protective function of flexible packaging, says Angelica Buan in this report.
Food safety – a growing concern in Asia According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 2 million people/ year, mostly children, are stricken with foodborne illnesses. Low and middle-income countries are especially predisposed to foodborne illnesses due to inadequate access to safe water, poor hygiene in food production and storage; and lack in food safety policies, to cite a few reasons. Unfortunately for Southeast Asia and Africa, foodborne diseases are on the rise, according to a 2015 assessment by the WHO, expounding that these regions noted the “highest incidence and highest death rates, including among children under the age of 5 years”. In Southeast Asia, the international specialised agency has worked with the ten-country regional association ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nation), which is home to a 640-million population and represents the world’s third largest market, to strengthen national food safety policies from production to consumption. The two bodies framed ten key strategies to achieve food safety in the region: food control systems; control and prevention of foodborne diseases, including effective surveillance systems; food laws, acts and standards; appropriate food safety policies/plans of action; technical capacity and financial resources; and alignment with international standards and alert systems. Innovative packaging a way out The food industry is relying on innovations in packaging to maintain food safety, while at the same time to obtain the favourable mien of durability, light weight, and cost-savings. Flexible packaging made of materials such as plastic, aluminium and paper fits this mould. On top of this, flexible packaging can meet food safety requirements, thanks to the new technologies, which range across smart packaging to advanced materials that enhance shelf life; as well as ensure integrity of packaging, which is the crux of the issue of product recalls.
The Sealtick TSE 6086b/TSE 6081b leak testing technology can detect if food (and pharmaceutical) packages are correctly sealed
Checking for leaks to prevent contamination Fresh and processed food and beverage items, which usually have a limited shelf life, are conducive for coddling infectious bacteria. In some cases, packaging alone may not be sufficient to combat contamination. The pathogen known as listeria monocytogenes has made headlines recently with a number of cases of contaminated food products being recalled. One such recall was by US firm Fair Oaks Farms of certain batches of its pork sausage patties. Though fully-cooked and wrapped in plastic sleeve packaging, the produce was found to be contaminated by listeria monocytogenes during a routine test. The recall was announced by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Identifying problems in packaging allows for protection against risk of contamination. Melbourne-headquartered industrial sensors and testing equipment supplier Bestech Australia offers Sealtick TSE 6086b/TSE 6081b leak testing technology to detect if food (and pharmaceutical) packages are correctly sealed. The system uses a vacuum method to measure gas leakage for a wide range of flexible pack types and sizes, it said.