During the time between the farmers’ fields and consumers’ tables, food encounters potentially hundreds of vulnerable touch points that could cause harm to the end product.
In 2014, the FDA issued nearly 400 food recall actions. Most cases are due to practices failing—not the food failing.
Product marking, labeling, and printing companies are a critical link in the supply chain of custody that food manufacturers need to consider.
As food manufacturers bear in mind who is handling their product mark—whether its the insert label, a pressure closure, or product tag—they should be sure to ask their supplier several questions. Here are some areas they should be investigating.
Established federal and private sector guidelines. Does your current supplier follow design standards and information requirements issued by the FDA? Does it follow Good Manufacturing Practices and have an NSF Food Safety Certification?
Basic sanitary measures. Do you know if the team handling your run is required to wear rubber gloves, hair, and facial nets when handling the product? This sounds like an obvious practice, but that is not always the case.
Internal policies and procedures. Is your supplier using a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan? Find out if it is using a documented version control standard. For example, at the Lauterbach Group, color management strategies and production color measurements are recorded in a master library within the OmniMark Management System for quality control evaluation and publication.
Facility-wide sanitation processes. Not only should the printing floor be spotless, but a facility-wide commitment to sanitation ensures clean conditions. It should also be given, but if not, ask your supplier what disinfection process it uses for the equipment.
Shipping and logistics. All pallets need to be sanitized before the product is loaded into the truck, and all trucks should be inspected before the product is loaded and shipped out.
Material solutions. Not all materials or inks are created equally. Whether it’s a top of the line Euro-style silk cheese paper, product inserts, or food safe inks, the materials and types of labels used on products make a big difference. There are specific FDA-approved inks that absolutely must be used when your product has contact with a mark.
All of these processes described are critical in ensuring sanitary integrity when using direct food contact labels.
In addition, a growing product area in the food packaging and marking business are resealable packages. Currently being used for products like baby wipes, more food manufacturers are looking to resealables. If your company is looking to go in this direction, the same processes and procedures apply.
There are many vulnerable touchpoints in the process when your brand is most at risk for damage or exposure. Partner with suppliers that strive to eliminate those vulnerabilities through airtight processes and practices.
In the case of direct food contact, the stakes are even higher, as there is a need to be protecting what’s on the inside as well as the outside mark.
Lauterbach is president and CEO of Lauterbach Group. He is currently serving a second term as Wisconsin representative to the Board of Directors of the Great Lakes Graphic Association. Reach him at 262-820-8102.