by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek
Consumers are looking for obvious benefits in packaging for food safety.
What’s the all-encompassing trend in packaging for food safety? Instinctive use, meaning that the selected safety feature has to be easy for the consumer to identify, understand and use.
So says Stephane Auclair, dairy category manager in the food packaging division at IPL Inc., Saint-Damien, Quebec, Canada. A 2004 IPL survey queried more than 200 consumers in three major North American markets and found 94 percent considered it very important for a food container to have a tamper-evident system.
“In addition to the fact that consumers clearly prefer food packaging that are resistant to tampering, they also prefer the feature to be visible,” Auclair says. “Let’s also not forget that, in addition to assuring the integrity of the contents, the tamper-evident feature needs to be easy to find and easy to use.”
IPL’s built-in tamper-evident safety system offers visual and physical evidence of any tampering, secure closing with no additional seal for simplified production and reduced operating costs. “Even after the safety tab has been removed and the lid opened, resealability will not be compromised,” Auclair says. “Lids are easy to open and close each time and the container skirt provides assurance that the lid will not come off during transportation.”
Blackhawk Molding developed its own capping systems and works with machinery companies such as Federal, Fogg, Filler Specialties and Change Parts to adapt their equipment to Blackhawk’s caps. The Addison, Ill.-based company has developed and patented its Super Quad cap to convey the feel, sound and visibility of the “snap” of the tamper ring from the cap upon opening, says general manager Dale Berg. The ring fits into a well on the bottle to make tampering more difficult.
Other Blackhawk innovations include its Fresh Seal System, featuring a film over-wrap that interacts with the neck of the bottle. “The film communicates any tampering that may occur by the destruction of the integrity of the wrap,” Berg says.
Blackhawk also patented its Clear Cap that allows the consumer to see that a foil liner is present on the bottle under the cap. This product is available either with printed or plain foil under the cap and with either a clear or tinted cap.
International Dispensing Corp. introduced the Fresh Flow Tap, a low-acid aseptic dispenser that can safely dispense shelf-stable product without breaking sterility. Liquid product can be dispensed from a flexible bag or pouch without bacteria or oxygen entering the package.
“If you take a look at the service our company provides the industry, it’s that we’ve changed the rules in the way aseptic products are dispensed,” says Gary Allanson, president and chief executive officer of the Hanover, Md.-based firm. “This helps the industry from a food safety perspective and an awareness that says wow, this can be done. We’ve developed assembly equipment that allows this valve to be automatically assembled, in line, at a very low cost. We’ve also created assembly equipment that allows us to produce a product that is 100 percent inspected.”
More with Less
Membrane lidding, which is gaining popularity for dairy drinks and yogurt, relies on adhesives. With conventional lidding, the seal is provided by the horizontal tamper-evident band. This mechanical sealing is done adhesively around the flange or bottle. Contamination can occur due to splashing or gaps in the seal.
“A loose seal will tell the consumer if contamination has taken place,” says Dr. Donna Visioli, senior technical program manager at DuPont, Wilmington, Del. “The consumer is most concerned that plastic fell into their food.”
DuPont sells sealants that close membrane lids. Seals are faster to use and rely on temperature rather than a mechanical means to seal. “You lock them up and they’re peelable. You can get a fingernail through it,” Visioli says.
Even more membrane lids for single-serve packaging will be introduced in the United States because American consumers disdain overpackaging. “When you have something that’s excessively packaged, say with a snap-on lid and membrane, it turns consumers off,” Visioli says.
Consumers also are demanding more attention to detail, Allanson says, heightening awareness of food allergies, especially peanuts; and foodborne illnesses, like mad cow and avian flu.
“People are starting to understand the risks that are out there that could impact the food supply,” Allanson says. “It started with terrorism, 9/11 and bioterrorism, then SARS, then avian flu, and hepatitis and HIV keep popping in and out. Consumer awareness for food safety has climbed exponentially, and so the cutting edge is, how are you going to protect the food supply once it gets into the flexible packaging or bag? Our company offers an insurance policy, a tap that doesn’t break sterility and is commercially proven.”
Auclair says many food processors are now offering tamper-evident packaging as an added value to their product. “Let’s just say the 9/11 events, anthrax and other bioterrorism threats have just consistently increased the retailer’s, the processor’s and consumer’s level of awareness,” he says.
Dairy processors are looking for efficient solutions that will not compromise the safety of their product, Auclair says. “There’s great benefit for the processors when they can offer content security without having to deal with the application of an additional seal or shrink band,” he says, adding that IPL has been successful with its rigid plastic packaging products with built-in tamper evident system.
Allanson says dairy processors are just realizing available opportunities of aseptic processing and packaging and the risks involved if they don’t have up-to-date equipment. “Dairy processors are asking for larger products that are aseptically processed and filled,” he says. “They’re asking for cost-effective aseptic processing and packaging with faster filling speeds and larger pack sizes.”
Ameri-Seal Inc., manufacturer of PVC Pre-Forms, combines tamper-evident packaging with printing capabilities on heat-shrinkable closures for food packaging safety.
“Pre-Forms are the perfect closure seal for butter, margarine, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt containers — virtually anything that is packaged in a tub,” says Devin Millstein, marketing director for the Chatsworth, Calif.-based company. “Once the Pre-Form is shrunk on the product, it assures the most obvious form of tamper resistance. If someone violates the package, it is easily visible.”
Pre-Forms are used as primary and secondary packaging and are available in clear and custom colors. Using rotogravure, up to eight colors can be printed on the package.
ScanTrac 200, a high-performance X-ray system for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, detects product contamination and package assembly errors at conveyor speeds of up to 700 feet per minute.
The system uses low-energy X-ray and image-processing software to detect the smallest contaminants such as metal, shards of glass, stones, bone, rubber and other dense foreign materials contaminating products packed in cartons, cans, plastic and glass. It also detects product voids and underfills, as well as damaged containers and can verify package components and product composition conform to specifications. It will automatically remove rejected product from the production line.
ScanTrac 200 is offered by InspX LLC, a joint venture between Key Technology, Walla Walla, Wash., and Peco Controls, Fremont, Calif.
For dairy processors looking to maintain optimum product integrity during packing and shipping, A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp., Tarpon Springs, Fla., developed its Model 800 case packer to accommodate shrink wrapped multi-packs dairy products. The case packer provides automatic product accumulation, case erecting, packing and sealing in one machine up to 25 cases per minute. It incorporates features for gentle product handling to eliminate scuffed overwraps or damaged graphics. m
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.
PACKAGING CAN KEEP COPY CATS FROM DEBASING BRANDS
When it comes to food safety and packaging, folks usually think about tamper evidence. But one of the emerging trends in this area is brand authentication to fight counterfeiting. Closures that can’t be reproduced can help secure both the integrity of the brand and the product inside the package.
For example, infant formula often falls prey to counterfeiters. Crooks will dump out the product and replace most of it with powdered creamer, cutting that with just enough actual formula so that the consumers are fooled by its appearance. Bottled water, coffee and granulated and powdered food products also can fall prey to such swindles.
“In many cases, the counterfeiter wants repeat consumers,” says Carolyn Burns, global marketing manager for DuPont, Wilmington, Del. “It didn’t kill you, and it tastes good, so you’ll buy it again. Not like the Tylenol scare, when that couldn’t be prevented because there was no tamper-evident packaging in place.”
Counterfeiters rely on the equity of the usurped brand to move their merchandise. “Counterfeiters don’t need R&D, marketing or engineering,” Burns says. “They just need to satisfy the next link in the chain.”
Widespread overseas, this deceptive practice is on the rise, Burns says. “We don’t want to scare consumers. There is some degree of consumer awareness. It’s not a case of someone causing harm,” she says. “Not that terrorism is not a grave concern. This is why tamper-evident closures are so important.”
Product counterfeiting awareness is developing in the United States, with the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently launching an anti-counterfeiting strategy. DuPont has been working with multinational companies to help create proprietary seals that can’t be duplicated. That’s where authentication comes in.
“If you can take seals for your adhesives and give them a unique appearance, then the consumer will know that’s a pure product,” Burns explains. “The dilemma is it’s a very fine line. You’re not creating a fear; you’re creating a look. It’s a strong case for a uniform approach, something that the consumer would be accustomed to seeing.”
The trick is staying one step ahead of the bad guys. In one instance, a company developed a particular closure that took six months to commercialize but took counterfeiters just three months to reproduce, says Dr. Donna Visioli, senior technical program manager at DuPont.
Another alternative is keeping the consumer out of the loop and having the brand owner run a reverse milk run, in which there would emerge a pattern, Burns says. She also points to smart packaging that uses a temperature-sensitive label.
Visioli says the focus is on protecting the product through its packaging. “But it would have to be a high-value product,” she adds. “It’s hard to justify a 50-cent [security] chip on a 75-cent yogurt.”$OMN_arttitle="No Brainers";?>