Q&A with UPM Raflatac’s Vesa Laaksonen on food safety

Vesa Laaksonen, director, quality development at UPM Raflatac talks about food safety compliance and labelling

24 Aug 2018 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Vesa Laaksonen, director, quality development at UPM

How do you define food safety?
What comes to packaging in contact with food, the food safety is defined quite well for example in the EU regulation 1935/2004.

Materials and articles, including active and intelligent materials and articles, shall be manufactured in compliance with good manufacturing practice so that, under normal or foreseeable conditions of use, they do not transfer their constituents to food in quantities which could: endanger human health; or bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of the food; or bring about a deterioration in the organoleptic characteristics thereof. The labelling, advertising and presentation of a material or article shall not mislead the consumers.

As a manufacturer of input material for labels and packaging, what is your role in ensuring food safety of packaging?
Food safety is the responsibility of everyone in the packaging supply chain, however, the company who is packaging the food knows all factors of the concept, therefore able to assess the safety of the whole packaging taking into account the intended use. In Europe we at UPM Raflatac train end users and label printers to be aware of European legislation requirements and how they can make sure packaging including labels are in compliance. UPM Raflatac wide food label material range gives freedom and flexibility.

Our role is to secure the safety of raw materials and product design and to provide downstream business operators with adequate information about the recommended use and compliance of the product.

There have been technological developments to make paper food grade. In line with that what have been the developments at UPM Raflatac?
If we look at the European situation, paper food contact materials do not yet have EU-level legislation like the plastic materials have. We secure that the paper materials intended for food labelling comply with:

  • EU national legislation, eg. in Germany
  • EU general food contact regulations (EU) 1935:2004 (“Framework regulation”) and
  • EU 2023:2006 regulation (“GMP-regulation”).

Additionally, in order to demonstrate conformance to the GMP-regulation, all UPM Raflatac manufacturing sites in Europe have a certified food safety management system according to ISO 22000. Using ISO 22000 certified label materials simplifies end-users‘ purchasing process as they don‘t need to check every aspect of GMP compliance separately.

We understand that just using food grade inks is not sufficient. One must also ensure that the inks are completely cured. How does an input material from UPM Raflatac help ensure that?
Ink curing by UV is managed by the label converter. It is one potential critical control point for the label converters, who need to address the risk in their food safety management system by for example process control or inspection of UV-devices and ink curing.

What are the common mistakes packaging converters make with regards selection of input substrate vis-à-vis the curing of inks and food safety?
Food safety needs to be taken into account already when selecting potential materials. It is important, that not only the technical performance of the product in the application is tested but also that the materials comply with food safety regulations.

What are the challenges with the food safety regulations across the world?
The legislation is different in different regions and different countries causing a complex process to ensure compliance and safety for all markets, if the product is sold in several market areas.

Have you proactively made initiatives before to help brand and packaging converters deliver safe packages for their customers?
Our experts are in contact with brand owners, packers, retailers etc to discuss about labeling solutions and conduct together development projects. We also follow and monitor the end-use market needs, develop products further and uncover new opportunities valuable for both sides. Assisting brand owners or packers – and of course label converters, which are our direct customers – to choose the right food safe label solution or develop new ones where needed, is also part of what we do.