Choosing the right food packaging is not just important to make your offerings look attractive to the consumer, but also to preserve the quality of the food and keep it safe for consumption. More importantly, complying with the FDA is mandatory while choosing any food contact substance. The FDA defines a food contact substance as “any substance that is intended for use as a component of materials used in the manufacturing, packing, packaging, transporting, or holding food if such use of the substance is not intended to have any technical effect in such food.”
Most often, food is packaged in cardboard packaging, paperboard, or coated paper, with adhesive being used to seal the packaging and add labels. There also are times when the label is directly attached to the food item, such as some fruits or vegetables. Here, choosing a food-safe adhesive becomes extremely important. Coatings and adhesives used in packaging or serving food also need to meet the FDA’s safety standards.
Here’s a look at what you should know while choosing the best food-safe adhesive.
Factors to Consider While Choosing an Adhesive
Some of the most important factors to check for while choosing an adhesive include:
- Resistance to high and low temperatures
- Field performance
- Line performance and material processing
- Shelf appeal
- Cost associated with label updates
If you are using hot melts for food packaging, make sure the food packaging hot melt plant is ISO certified to meet the guidelines of the Food Management Systems and Global Food Safety Industry Standards.
Some of the other aspects to keep in mind to make an informed choice of food-safe adhesive are:
Check Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulation
The FDA has listed “pre-approved” adhesives under Title 21 of its Code of Federal Regulations. Here, the FDA also specifies which ingredients are permitted within the adhesives and the guidelines for using adhesives for both aqueous/fatty and dry foods. The FDA also provides directions regarding when to use functional barriers between the food item and adhesive.
Verify Acceptance of Food Contact Substances
Not all packaging materials and adhesives you use need to be considered food contact substances, or even an indirect food additive that needs to comply with stringent regulations. The simplest way to verify whether the materials being used should be considered food contact substances is by submitting a Food Contact Notification (FCN) to the FDA.
Once you submit the FCN, the FDA will check that it has all the administrative information required to verify whether the materials in question are food contact substances. After ensuring it has all the documentation filed accurately, the FDA starts a 120-day review to check the safety of the materials in question. If the regulatory body does not find any problems, including in the adhesives being used, the materials are approved for use.
Although this might seem like a long process, it is well worth the time, given that it puts your business in the clear with the FDA for the long term or till the regulatory agency changes its guidelines.
Use a Functional Barrier Between the Food and the Packaging
You can also ensure that no substances from the packaging or adhesive used leeches into the food items by using a functional barrier. This barrier protects the food from coming in direct contact with the adhesive or packaging. However, choosing the materials to create the functional barrier also needs some thought.
For instance, you will need to consider the temperature range. Will the food item need to be frozen? Should the barrier be microwave safe? So, the barrier materials might need to be able to withstand very low or very high temperatures. Also, check the shelf-life of the barrier materials, compared to that of the food products being packaged.
Lastly, remember that apart from the FDA’s guidelines, different states might have varying regulations regarding packaging and adhesives for food safety. They might also have guidelines regarding the quantity of adhesive that can be used for dry food versus aqueous/fatty foods. The simplest course of action is to use an adhesive brand with an established track record of being used for food-safe packaging.