Food Packaging and Current Law

Food Packaging and Current Law

Though the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) is a couple years old, rules and regulations continue to garner discussion.  One that is raising some controversy is the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), which requires food makers to ensure that those that supply them with food are following certain guidelines.

The suppliers that the food packagers are supposed to watch are suppliers of food.  However, food has a specific definition under the Act.  The legal definition of food includes components of food, including contact materials.  Under this definition, and minus an express exemption, suppliers of food packaging may fall under these new regulations.  Until the final regulation is released, food packagers can only wonder at how far their obligation to verify suppliers will reach.

The next logical thought is not just those that create food packaging, but the manufacturers of the machinery for the packaging process.  While manufacturers may follow PMMI or ANSI standards for sanitary machinery, the FSMA may have manufacturers rethinking their designs.  The FSMA seems to put the burden on the food packager to put in place production process that create a safe food product, which includes choosing packaging equipment that will keep the process safe.  However, machinery manufacturers are not immune to liability and in any case, will need to work with food packagers to create a safe process.

While no single filling machine or capping machine will work for all processes, food manufacturers will basically continue to look for the same features that have always been desirable in their packaging machines.  A sanitary design complemented by a thorough yet simple cleaning procedure and easy product changeover.  While new features may be forthcoming, the extent of the necessary changes will only be molded by the final regulations put in place by the FSMA and by the individual desires of each packaging process.  

For now, food packagers, packaging suppliers and packaging machinery manufacturers should all keep a close eye on the regulations coming from the FDA, as they are sure to have an effect on future business.