Professional food packaging materials are just as important to your company as reliable and safe raw materials to make your products. Except for pharmaceutical products, there is nothing more sensitive than food. No other products are subject to such strict regulation at every step of the way from the origin of the ingredients to the store shelf.
However, unfortunate accidents can happen even if you are using adequate food packaging solutions. The most common source of these accidents is cross contact.
What is Cross Contact and Why Does It Matter?
Cross contact happens when two different food products touch when they shouldn’t. This accidental contact can lead to contamination or break certain rules. For example, meat cannot be marketed as kosher if it was in contact with dairy products. A non-allergenic food product will have to be withdrawn from store shelves if a batch of it came into contact with an allergen (peanuts are the most frequently encountered allergens).
Cross contact can also lead to a whole batch of products being compromised after being in contact with a single packaging material that was not properly cleaned after a spillage.
As you are well aware, a single instance of a contaminated or otherwise unsafe product can compromise the reputation of your company. With increased consumer awareness and internet as the fastest medium for spreading news, it is extremely hard if not impossible to recover from such a situation.
The Best Solution: Best Practices for Preventing Cross Contact
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to prevent various food products from coming in contact with each other. These simple best practices for the proper use of food packaging will help you create your own internal procedures for dealing with this issue.
1. Keep Raw Materials Properly Separated before Processing
One of the basic rules in the warehouse is making the best use of available space. However, there are good ways and bad ways of achieving it. The good way is using space saving food packaging, like foldable containers and stack-nest boxes. The bad way is cramming products together, without a safety space between them.
Accidental spillages can affect not just similar raw materials, but also those adjacent to them. This leads to cross contact and can render the entire batch of food products unusable. The products need not only separation inside the containers, but also on the shelves and between stacks of loaded containers.
2. Color Code Your Food Packaging to Avoid Mix-Ups
When you are dealing with various types of food products, it is possible that a cleanroom pallet used for meat ends up being used for dairy products or fresh vegetables (vegans will certainly not like this).
But one pallet looks like the other, right? How can you separate them properly? The answer is: by color. Plastic containers and hygienic pallets for the food industry can be manufactured in several colors. Thus, you can have red packages for meat, white for dairy, green for vegetables and so on. Color coding is the easiest way to avoid mix-ups.
3. Discuss the Importance of Safety with Your Suppliers and Employees
Cross contact can happen at the place of origin of the raw materials you use or at the moment when the products are unloaded and carried to the warehouse. This is why you must continuously communicate with your suppliers and employees, reinforcing the importance of avoiding cross contact.
Create checklists for the logistic cycle of your food packaging and make sure that each person in charge complies with them. You have the control over how your packaging is used only as far as you can rely on the companies and individuals you work with to act responsibly.
4. Use Professional Packaging Washing Services
Cleaning and sanitizing food packaging is not something you do with water and a brush. If you cannot invest in your own washing installation, then send all your containers and pallets to a professional company that guarantees zero dirt and contaminants once the wash cycle is finished.
5. Enforce a Strict Quarantine System for Contaminated Products
In a warehouse or food production facility, contamination can spread like wildfire from a single product or batch of raw materials to all your processed foods. Live contaminants (bacteria, microbes) can be mobile or airborne and wreak havoc in your operations.
This is the worst form of cross contact and can be prevented only by creating and enforcing strict quarantine rules. The products along with their primary and secondary packaging must be stored in a separate confined place. Your employees should go through a full decontamination process once they’ve come into contact with these products or their packages before they are allowed to go to other areas and handle food products.
At Logistic Packaging, we understand your need for reliable and professional food packaging materials. We are ready to assist you with expert advice and post-sale support in implementing the best practices in logistics and packaging. Contact our packaging experts today by email or schedule a live Skype chat!