During the packaging stage of the food production cycle, there are several factors that, if not handled appropriately, could lead to undeclared allergens in the marketplace.
What areas should you look out for? What are some best practices to ensure safe and successful entry into the marketplace – with all allergens declared and accounted for?
Stephanie Lopez, Vice President, Food Safety Services Innovation, AIB International, shared her expertise on three potential failure points: purchasing, receiving, and packing. This article will highlight possible failure point No. 3: Packing.
First of all, it’s essential plant personnel align the correct package/label is with the product, and a record is maintained. For example, suppose you have a production schedule, and the first product you ran for the day was an original flavor, and the next product you ran for the day was the cheese flavor. You must have these aligned because if you decided to switch to the cheese flavor but didn’t switch over your packaging, and are still labeling it as original, you’re going to have an undeclared allergen.
Depending on your facility, this is an activity that will either be handled by production or quality personnel.
Do not stage multiple cases, wickets, or rolls of different packaging near the line.
“AIB cautions against this as an efficiency measure because if you have extra packaging near the line, it increases your chances of grabbing the wrong package and putting it on the line. Or when the run is complete, and you’ve got a partial you’re putting back in the case, the chances are higher that you’ll put it back on the wrong pallet or wrong case,” Lopez said.
You should only have the packaging that aligns with the product run at that time/stage. This task might be a shared responsibility between production and warehousing.
Best Practice: Labeling on Rolls of Film
If you’re using rolls of film for your packaging, confirm that you have the correct labeling at the beginning and end of the roll. Why?
“The way the film is manufactured at the packaging manufacturing site often involves splicing multiple rolls together. When those rolls get spliced, there’s the opportunity for incorrect rolls to get spliced together,” Lopez explained.
This job could be the function of someone in the production department or quality department. Either one is acceptable. It’s up to the individual company to decide which is best for their culture.
Ensure Effective Changeover Communication
During a changeover, it’s essential employees remove all packaging/labels from the prior run before beginning a new product, including anything that might be on the line already. Employees should document this on a changeover checklist.
Clear communication between the front of the production line and the back, where workers package the product, is critical.
“Any time there is a changeover, you’re expected to have a changeover checklist that identifies that all previous packaging has been removed. The packaging for the current run has been confirmed and is in alignment or agreement with the product being run,” Lopez added.
Secure Outdated Packaging
Occasionally, there will be obsolete packaging (e.g., rolls, labels, film). Outdated packaging should be secured, which involves more than a simple Post-it Note saying, “Please don’t use;” you should keep it in a secure area, possibly under lock and key. One method could be to use bright red hold tags on the obsolete packaging. Ideally, you would segregate outdated packaging from active stock.
“It’s imperative that when you do have packaging on hold, that it’s very clearly labeled and segregated,” Lopez urged.
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