May 1, 2006
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek
Tamper evidence becomes a new priority for reclosable packaging.
Tamper-evident packaging isn’t required for food — yet. But with the FDA requiring over-the-counter drugs to have tamper-evident packaging, could dairy products be far behind?
A requirement added to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance took effect in January, mandating that fluid-milk products utilize closures that can’t be removed without detection. But nothing official exists to guide dairy processors and packaging suppliers on the protocol for packaging. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working together to develop protocols to test if closures are deemed tamper evident or not.
“There is nothing in the PMO or anticipated protocol that will outlaw a specific cap,” says Michelle Matto, regulatory affairs manager for Washington, D.C.-based IDFA. “It will look at how closures, the neck finish and the bottle itself will perform. It’s not like one type of cap will be outlawed, which is a rumor that’s going around the industry.”
However, FDA is already debiting dairy plants during inspection if a dairy processor’s cap doesn’t have a tamper-evident seal, Matto says. If a plant loses enough points, a dairy processor might lose the opportunity to ship Grade A products over state lines.
“We received a request in April from a fluid-milk processor to convert from a press-on cap to a tamper-evident screw cap because the dairy had been graded down by a fluid-milk inspector,” says Dale Berg, general manager of Blackhawk Molding Co. Inc., Addison, Ill.
Consumers demand packaging that’s safe and preserves the integrity of the product. But tamper-evident packaging aside, can consumers open the package with little effort? And can the package be reclosed easily for later consumption without leaking or spilling or spoiling?
“They want a package that will not leak if tipped over on the way home from the store,” Berg says. “In addition, they want a package that will not leak if accidentally tipped in the refrigerator. They want a screw cap. Portability is very important.”
Berg says Blackhawk stuck with the more tamper-evident closures and developed the Super Quad cap with the tamper ring on the cap and a well on the bottle that limits tampering. Four threads on the cap and plug make for a better seal both before and after opening, he says.
Blackhawk also recently developed a Clear Cap that allows the consumer to see a foil liner under the cap to add another layer of visual tamper evidence to a capped bottle. “The foil seal may be printed to convey a tamper-evidence message,” Berg says. “In addition, we have developed the Fresh Seal System to over-wrap a cap with film for tamper evidence.
“Dairy processors are after a cap that will demonstrate if tampering has occurred. This is at the same time as they would like to promote a resealable package the consumer would like. It must be engineered to avoid leaking and be cost-effective.”
For dairy processors that don’t already have screw-capping equipment, Blackhawk developed the Star Capper to apply screw caps with a less-costly machine. The Star Capper uses the conveyor line to offer the power to apply the cap.
Alcoa’s new Seal-MAX 38mm plastic dairy closures come in screw-on or snap-on designs for easy application and removal. The Indianapolis-based company’s Seal-MAX uses high-quality materials and innovative sealing designs to virtually eliminate leaking. The in-shell molded liner eliminates leaking and spilling for on-the-go use. The tamper-evidence technology features complete band separation from closure during opening and the separated band stays on the bottle finish. The consumer then has visual proof of package integrity. Seal-MAX closures are designed for HDPE and PET containers, from single serves to gallons.
Anticipating school lunch programs converting to plastic single-serve milks, International Plastics & Equipment Corp. offers a new 38mm single-use closure as a cost-effective alternative. The consumer-friendly closure uses a pull-tab for easy opening. The lightweight closures can be initially applied through a high-speed snap-on application requiring minimal equipment-related expenditures, according to the New Castle, Pa.-based company.
Borrowing from the meat industry, where the proliferation of tub-and-lid technology has grown, dairy packagers are seeing more interest in such packaging in the cheese markets.
“The latest trends in reclosable and resealable packaging are familiar and functional products mirroring familiar home-based reclosable concepts,” says Dennis Burian, marketing director at Curwood Inc., Oshkosh, Wis.
Tub-and-lid technology uses barrier materials designed to sustain the product through its life cycle, Burian says. The tub and lid are heat-sealed together integrating peelable seal technology for easy opening. The lid can be snapped back onto the tub for refrigeration.
Reclosable technology has improved significantly, and the need for secondary and tertiary packaging has waned as semi-rigid and flexible options have been developed to incorporate reclosable technology, Burian says.Curwood’s proprietary peel/re-seal system combines barrier technology with added value providing an economical solution, reducing the amount of packaging sourced to obtain convenience. Peel/re-seal technology can be incorporated into Curwood’s semi-rigid or rigid forming material or the lidstock, depending on the application.
Slider zippers have bypassed conventional press-to-close systems because they’re easy to use and consumers are willing to pay for it, Burian says. “Consumers want a functional and easy recloseable solution,” he says.
Zip-Pak has introduced the new Zip-Pak Slider for overwrap packages, suitable for sliced and block cheese. The new zipper brings the slider’s easy opening and resealing convenience to overwrap packages for the first time.
“We are proud to pioneer new packaging formats to enhance consumer convenience. The new Zip-Pak Slider offers all the benefits of slider technology to a new package format, allowing brand owners to differentiate their overwrap packages,” says Robert Hogan, director of international sales and marketing at Zip-Pak, Manteno, Ill.
Starting with Sargento products 20 years ago, today virtually all pouched cheeses feature zippers or sliders, creating reclosable packages that can be conveniently stored without a secondary container. This is a feature consumers appreciate and also expect, Burian says.
“We are offering opening features that eliminate the need for knives or scissors. This feature allows the film to be removed like a hood to expose the product, while providing the additional security of tamper evidence,” Burian says of Curwood’s IntegraScore opening feature, made for shredded and pre-sliced cheese in pouches.
Obviously, packaging that requires opening with sharp implements is hardly convenient. “It might sound cliché, but consumers are requiring more from their packaging than ever before,” Burian says.
“Today’s lifestyles demand it. If we can help enhance the package experience in a positive manner, there will be a repeat sale for our customer. When we can eliminate frustration from daily life, such as looking for a scissors or an additional storage container, end users remember that and will buy again.”
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.$OMN_arttitle="Foolproof Fixes";?>