Today, a major concern is whether any packaging component will migrate into food, or whether flavours, colours or ingredients will seep into packaging material. Jayachandran Nair, business head, flexible laminates for India, Middle East and Africa at Henkel Adhesives addressed this issue during his lecture and explained the problem of food migration.
Nair dwelt on the chemistry which raises the concern for food safe materials. He explained that a simple polyurethane (PU) reaction which results in the urethane linkage also results in components with free isocyanates. These free isocyanates in the presence of moisture form carcinogenic primary aromatic amines. Nair said, “A proper decay of these primary aromatic amines results in the formation of a safe product. In case of an unsteady or unfinished decay, the by-product in the packaging will be hazardous.”
Food safety and marketing professionals both have concerns about the safety of the packaged food, as well as the appearance, flavour, odour and other factors affecting consumer appeal. However, while consumer appeal issues still determine the success or failure of a given product, an unsafe container is a public health issue and will affect the future of a food or packaging manufacturer. To counter this issue of hazardous chemicals entering the food products various regulatory bodies have been set up across the world to monitor and allow the application of certain processes and chemicals.
Nair gave a brief background on the key food safety regulations namely the EU, FDA and the Chinese GB regulations. “Food safety regulation is a global phenomenon. It has reached a point where global food companies are creating their own global standards.” He explained how various countries across the globe use these regulations and added that “Henkel Adhesives follows the EU regulation which is widely regarded as the most stringent regulation.” Nair then went on to share Henkel’s belief in the triple food safety process. “Proper focus is given to supplier assessment, analytical assessment and toxicological assessment,” said Nair.
Nair concluded by saying, "As a consumer, I should not mind paying an extra penny if I know that not only the chocolate which my kid eats but also the packaging which wraps the chocolate are safe!" He quoted a food major who said, "If you supply to a food company, you are no longer just the packaging industry, you are a part of the food industry. We treat food packaging with the same food safety rigour as food ingredients."