Pro Tip: Packaging manufacturers are expected to understand, apply and validate their processes for consistency, quality, safety and adherence to required methods and protocols.
Packaging materials are not typically connected with biological, chemical or physical recalls due to contamination. According to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) regulations apply to the manufacturing of food packaging. These are some of the most common issues encountered during packaging companies’ inspections:
- Handwashing facilities vs. utensil washing facilities: The same sinks are being used for both handwashing and utensil washing. Best industry practices include the separation and labeling of sinks to eliminate cross-contamination issues.
- Excessive lubrication: Lubricants that are essential for effective equipment operations must be managed to ensure they do not get into food products. An effective lubrication program should include lubrication analysis, adjustments, contamination control and inspections.
- Utensil usage and storage: All utensils should be approved and included in the facility program so that there are proper procedures for their inspection, use, storage and handling. By taking these measures, contamination risks to products as well as product contact surfaces can be reduced.
- Gaps on dock levelers and dock doors: To eliminate pest entry points, dock levelers and dock doors need to be made close-fitting or with a gap of less than ¼ inch or 6 mm, making them pest proof.
- Temporary repairs: There are times when temporary repairs are necessary or unavoidable, but they should never be used as an excuse not to do permanent repairs. Procedures must be developed and implemented to define the type of material, required records and timelines to ensure that they do not become a contamination risk to products or product contact surfaces.
Steve McAllister, PhD, is a food safety professional at AIB International.