Choosing packaging and labelling to ensure food safety and quality

If you sell a fresh product, you’ll know how important it is that it’s fresh and safe to eat when it reaches your customers. Packaging plays a vital role in ensuring food safety and quality so when it comes to thinking about packaging your food product, it’s important to spend time looking at the different options available.

The packaging that’s used to contain food and drink is covered by strict legislation so if you’re setting up a food or drink business for the first time, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the ins-and-outs of packaging and labelling. Food and drink products must be clearly labelled and the labelling you use has to be easy to read, easy to understand, permanent and easily visible. Certain basic information has to be included, as must a list of ingredients and, when appropriate, food safety warnings should also be clearly shown. The labelling requirements for products containing alcohol are covered by a different set of requirements.

If you’re selling your products in a catering business or for sale in a shop, for example cakes to be ‘eaten-out’ in a café, the labelling requirements are less rigorous. In this case you’ll need to include the name of the food, details of any genetically modified ingredients or food additives and, from 2014, information on allergens such as nuts. Additional information is required when selling meat products.

When it comes to packaging food you can either package your products yourself, or you could use the services of a specialist packaging company. Whilst packaging your own products can be a very cost effective option – especially for new businesses – however, it does have its drawbacks as it is time-consuming and because you must use packaging that is designed specifically for food, finding a suitable solution can be difficult. Remember that if you use plastic, cellophane or ceramics in your product packaging, there are special requirements which must be met. Using a packaging service, although it is usually the more expensive option, offers reliability, speed and peace of mind. It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst the initial outlay can be significant, most packaging companies offer discounts for larger orders so your costs could well come down in the long run.

Many food producers find it helpful to join a food assurance scheme as this is a great way to reassure your customers that your products meet certain standards, for example on animal welfare, quality or food safety.

If you’re new to the world of food packaging you may well be feeling a little overwhelmed by the legislation and requirements which cover this area of food production and sales. Choosing to use a specialist packaging company is the best way to ensure your products are labelled and packaged correctly. One last word of advice: before you choose a packaging company, don’t forget to ensure that their services meet the necessary hygiene and food safety requirements.

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