Packaging suppliers to the food industry should embrace Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs, according to Barry Novak, packaging manger, quality and regulatory compliance, General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, MN. Mr. Novak and Jeff Sobell, senior manager, global packaging, Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, MI, jointly presented “Food Safety and Packaging: The Hazards, Recalls and New Strategies” during Pack Expo 2011 in Las Vegas, NV, last week.

While normally it might seem odd that representatives from the two largest breakfast cereal manufacturers would share the same stage, Mr. Novak said, “Food safety is not something to be considered a competitive advantage.”

In fact, both companies are members of the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging, a technical committee of the Institute of Packaging Professionals.

Packaging should reduce, not create, food safety issues, Mr. Novak said. “Packaging was invented for the sole purpose of protecting foods,” he noted.

While the Code of Federal Regulation currently states that packaging cannot impart odor or taste to food products, Mr. Sobell said the main reason food safety and packaging has become a recent hot topic is because of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law a the beginning of this year by President Obama. FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more authority when it comes to establishing new food safety regulations, he said.

A single mislabeling incident can be a cause for concern and can have major impacts on brands and businesses, according to Mr. Novak, who presented several examples where labeling issues had led to recalls.

Then, Mr. Sobell discussed a June 2010 recall at Kellogg in which the cereal manufacturer pulled 19 million cereal boxes from store shelves because of off-odors from packaging. As a result of the recall, he said, the company’s net income fell by 15% in the second quarter that year.

The impact of a recall has many indirect costs, Mr. Sobell added, such as reputation erosion of a brand and loss of shelf space at retail markets. Also, companies must pay to recover product and dispose of the recalled product.

The main overall point that Mr. Novak and Mr. Sobell stressed throughout the presentation was that packaging manufacturers would benefit greatly by implementing HACCP as a way to ensure the products they provide to food manufacturers are safe.