Packaging of Food Products – its Functions and Types, Product Labelling, Nutritional Labelling

Packaging of Food Products

It is packaging for food. “Packaging can be described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, warehousing, logistics, sale, and end-use; it contains, protects, preserves, transports, informs, and sells” (Soroka). A package provides protection, tampering resistance, and special physical and biological, and chemical needs to a food product.

Functions of Packaging

  1. Protection: A package provides physical protection from dirt, temperature, vibration, shock, compression, etc., and acts as a barrier for gases like oxygen and water vapor.
  2. Temper Proof: Proper packaging avoids the risk of tampering and adulteration.
  3. Information transmission: Package gives information regarding date of manufacture, expiry, ingredients, nutritional facts, manufacturer/marketing agency, how to use, etc.
  4. Marketing: Aesthetically appealing and eye-appealing food presentations encourage people to consider the content.
  5. Convenience: Package provides convenience in handling, stacking, display, opening/ closing, use/reuse, distribution, etc.
  6. Food Waste Reduction: It reduces total waste by extending the shelf life of foods thereby prolonging usability.
  7. Traceability: It improves supply management, facilitates trace-back for food safety and quality purpose, and differentiates market food with subtle and undetectable quality attributes.

Types of Packaging

Primarily it is of three types as follows:

1. Primary Packaging

It is the first layer of packaging that lies most closely and holds the product. It is the packaging used for branding and display of material. It can also be referred to as retail or consumer packaging.

2. Secondary Packaging

It is the packaging used to group various pre-packaged products together. Secondary packaging plays a vital role in the marketing strategy especially in the case of display packaging. It also helps in ease of handling, transportation, and storage of the product.

3. Tertiary Packaging

It is also called transit packaging, used for bulk handling, warehouse storage, and transport/shipping of the product.

Packaging may also be classified on the basis of materials used for the packaging of food materials. Following are the main packaging materials used for the purpose:

Classification on the basis of materials used for the packaging of food materials.

1. Glass

It is impermeable to gasses and vapor, odorless and chemically inert with virtually all food products. The ability to withstand high processing temperatures makes glass useful for heat sterilization of both low-acid and high-acid foods. Although glass is rigid, transparent, and can be produced in numerous different shapes; it is heavy and adds to transportation costs. Also due to its brittleness and susceptibility to breakage makes it the poorest choice for food packaging.

2. Metal

Metals occupy the second most important of all packaging forms. The following two types are predominantly used in packaging food products:

(a) Tinplate: It is produced from low-carbon steel. In addition to its excellent barrier properties to gases, water vapor, light, and odor; tinplate can be heat-treated and sealed hermetically. Because of good ductility and formability, it can be used for containers of many different shapes like cans for drinks, processed foods, powdered foods, and aerosol foods. Its relatively low weight and high mechanical strength than glass make it easy to ship and store.

(b) Aluminium: It is a lightweight, silvery-white metal derived from bauxite ore. Besides providing an excellent barrier to moisture, air, odor, light; aluminum has good flexibility and surface resilience, and outstanding embossing potential. Because of excellent malleability and formability aluminum is commonly used to make cans and foil.

3. Plastic

Plastics are the most versatile of all packaging forms occupying first place in packaging. These are the types of it:

(a) Polyethylene (PE): It is commonly known as polythene and technically as thermoplastic. Because of resistance to impact and chemicals, rigidity, and high ductility; Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is preferably and most commonly used as a carry bag.

(b) Polyethylene Terephthalate: Commonly abbreviated PET/PETE, in its natural state, is a colorless semi-crystalline resin which is a good gas and fair moisture barrier; commonly used for liquids and foods especially for single-use water and soft drinks bottles.

(c) Polyvinylidene Chloride: Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) is generally applied as a water-based coating to other plastic films which increases the barrier properties. reducing the permeability of the film to oxygen and thus extending the shelf life of the food inside the package.

(d) Polypropylene (PP): It is normally tough and flexible, less resistant to chemicals than PE but good resistance to fatigue. So, generally used for making bottle caps, drinking straws, and reusable plastic containers along with packages for Bread. Food containers made from it will not melt during industrial hot filling processes; so it is the type, preferred by the bakery or confectionery industry. PP alone or with aluminum foil is also used as a sealing material for dairy products.

(e) Polystyrene (PS): Because of its solid glassy state, resilience, and inertness it is generally used mainly for producing disposable plastic cutlery and dinnerware. Also used for making food containers.

4. Paper

Plain paper is having poor barrier properties and is not heat sealable, so cannot be used to protect foods for long periods of time. When used as primary packaging the paper is almost always treated, coated, laminated, or impregnated with materials such as waxes, resins, or lacquers to improve functional and protective properties. So, on the basis of coating it can be:

(a) Kraft/Sack paper: It is the paper produced from softwood pulp through the kraft process having high elasticity and tear resistance. The natural kraft is the strongest of all paper and is commonly used as bags for packaging or carrying a small amount of flour, sugar, fruits, and vegetables.

(b) Greaseproof paper: Greaseproof paper is made through a process known as beating and as the name suggests it is impermeable to oil and grease. In developed countries, it is used to wrap snack foods, cookies, candy bars, and other oily foods; as a replacement for plastic bags. Another modification of this paper is Glassine which is produced after further hydration and used as a liner for packaging biscuits, baked goods, and fast foods.

(c) Parchment paper: Also known as bakery/butter paper and is used as a substitute for wax paper nowadays. Parchment paper is made from acid-treated cellulose pulp through a sulphuric acid bath and is impervious to water and oil. It is not a good barrier to air and moisture and heat-sealable so, used to package fats such as butter and lard.

(d) Fibreboard: It can be solid or corrugated. The solid type has an inner whiteboard layer and an outer kraft layer. The corrugated type is made of two layers of kraft paper with a central corrugating material. Fibreboard’s resistance against impact and crushing damage makes it widely used for case packing of retail products and transporting bulk food.

Product Labelling

A label is “Any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter or display of written, printed. stenciled, marked, embossed or impressed matter on, or attached to a container, cover, lid or crown of any food package” (FSSAI). It is mandatory that every package of food should carry a label that bears the information required as follows:

  • Name of the food.
  • List of ingredients in descending order.
  • Nutrional information.
  • Name and complete address of the manufacturer.
  • Net content by weight or volume.
  • Lot No./Batch Identification.
  • Date of manufacturing/Packing.
  • Best before use/Use by date.
  • Veg/Non-Veg logo of appropriate dimension.

Contents on the label shall be clear, prominent, indelible, and readily legible by the consumer and should be in English or Hindi in Devnagri Script. Also, the label should not carry false, misleading, or deceptive information.

The Weights and Measures Act

The Standards of Weights and Measures Act’, 1956 extended to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir to establish standards of weights and measures based on the metric system. On the basis of the International System of Weights and Measure, the Act was replaced by comprehensive legislation ‘The Weights and Measures Act, 1976. This Act mainly focused on the insurance that all weights or measures used for trade or commerce, for industrial production, or for protection of human health and safety are accurate and reliable; so that users are guaranteed of their performance and quality, as well as the consumer gets the right quantity which he/she pays for. The Act also regulates interstate trade and commerce in weights and measures, and commodities sold, distributed, or supplied by weights and measures. The sale of commodities in ‘pre-packed form in the course of inter-state trade or commerce was regulated through the Standards of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977.

Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985 was enacted to provide for the enforcement of the standards of weight and measures established by or under the Weights and Measures Act, 1976, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The specifications of measuring instruments used in a commercial transaction, industrial production, and measurement involved in public health and human safety are given in the Standards of Weights and Measures (General) Rules, 1987; to regulate newer types of weighing and measuring instruments. Thereafter ‘The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 was an ‘Act to establish and enforce standards of weights and measures, regulate trade and commerce in weights, measures and other goods which are sold or distributed by weight, measure or number and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto’; enacted w.e.f. 1st January 2010. The Act prescribed the use of weight and measures for particular purposes and prohibited quotation, etc. other than the standards as well as prohibited manufacture, repair, or sale of weight or measure without a license.

After the establishment of FSSAI, Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 came into existence making a way for The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 w.e.f. 1st April 2011. The rules are framed to regulate pre-packing and sale of specific commodities having a proper label with declarations in packaged form. On June 29, 2017, the Government approved certain amendments to the Packaged Commodities (Amendment) Rules w.e.f. 1st January 2018. The key provisions of the Amendments Rules are highlighted herein below:

• All product packages, to which the Packaging Rules apply, are required to bear certain declarations regarding Country of Origin, Best Before or Use by Date or Expiry Date, Retail sale price as MRP on their principal display panel.

• In addition to the mandatory declarations, the manufacturers, packers, or importers are now permitted to declare (i) Barcode or GTIN or QR Code; (ii) ‘E-code’ for net quantity assurance of the commodity; (iii) Logos of Government schemes, such as Swachh Bharat Mission, where such use is authorized by the Government.

• Declaration of Name and complete address of the manufacturer as well as Marketing Agency.

• Central Government may on an application being made, may relax any manufacturer/ packer from any or all the provisions of the rules in case of introductory/innovation/trail packs for a reasonable period.

The rules do not apply to:

(a) Packages for the exclusive use of any industry as raw material or for the purpose of servicing any industry.

(b) Commodities (excluding drugs and medicine) whose net weight is 20 g or less or 20 ml or less, if sold by weight or measure.

(c) Drugs covered under the Drugs (price control) order 1995.

(d) Agricultural farm products in packages of above 50 kg.

(e) Any package containing fast food items packed by restaurant/hotel and the like.

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