Srinivasa Gopal says safety is a must when it comes to food

TK Srinivasa Gopal of FSSAI talks about the packaging materials and the safety of food during the 9th edition of Speciality Films and Flexible Packaging global summit on 5 September at the Sahara Star in Mumbai.

09 Sep 2022 | By Abhay Avadhani

Gopal: Food production is growing at a fast rate along with the food packaging

Srinivasa Gopal touched upon the safety of packaging materials for food contact applications. He said that the food production is growing at a fast rate along with the food packaging. He said, “Packaging is an external means of preservation for the storage and distribution, and it increases the shelf life of the food.” He pointed out that in recent times, between the manufacturers and the consumers, the consumers are entirely different. “They want the package to be of high quality, hygienic and it should safeguard the product”, he added. By giving an example of the pandemic times, he said that food safety has become an important subject and puts the spotlight on the safety quotient in packaging. 

About food packaging he said, “Food containing constituents like vitamins and carbohydrates and the environment conditions like humidity and temperature, play an important role in the composition of food which gives rise to the composition of the packaging materials in order to keep the foods safe. Reducing the packaging materials by using alternate materials. For example BOPP (IS THIS technically correct? Isn’t PP / PE better?) is a better option and lightweighting without losing the barrier properties plays an important role.”

He described the materials used for food packaging as plastics, paper, glass, metal and composites. He said, there is a concern on the increasing presence of packaging materials in the waste system. Approximately four MT per annum of plastic waste has been generated in India in the last year. The per capita waste generation for 2016-20 has doubled over the previous five years. Therefore vigilance is required.

Srinivasa Gopal added that the environmental legislations concerning packaging are being enacted. Describing the materials he further said, “some of the plastics being used in food packaging are LDPE, PP, HDPE LLDPE, BOPP and PET.” While talking about the materials he said that the packaging materials come in direct contact with the food - and plastics are being increasingly deployed in the food industry. 

Further he addressed the contact of food with the package and said that as polymerisation is necessary to obtain the material for flexible packaging, there are certain plasticizers and antioxidants that will enter the product through the package which causes risk for consumption of food. “Therefore, it has led the national and international regulatory authorities to form guidelines for food packaging”, he added. He stated that the guidelines are necessary to illustrate the use and abuse of plastics in food packaging. 

Next, he spoke about regulations set up by agencies like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and FSSAI which play an important role in the formulation of standards for a number of food grade plastics. This has resulted in safe use of plastics. He said that regulations by different countries have laid down a positive list of components particularly followed in plastics and specific migration of monomers like fluoride, styrene and acrylonitrile in their specific respective polymers. He said, “these are the permitted additives used in the finished packaging materials, and the use of things like antioxidants are to be maintained in a disciplined manner under these standards and regulations.”

Additionally he talked about how plastics can create health issues like acrylonitrile causes carcinogenic strain, neurological and psychological disorders. So, in order to check if the plastic is safe for food packaging, Srinivasa talked about the tests conducted. He said, “we do the migration tests to see if the material is transferred into the food. The migration test is done with all types of food for a given package under controlled conditions of use for an expected time of contact.” 

Adding to the tests he said, “even though we have implemented strict quality control practices for ensuring food safety for the export trade, there are proper guidelines and quality control with reference to packaging material as well”. He said that packaging materials are not being tested and safety is becoming a concern. Addressing this issue he said, “testing should be made mandatory for all the parameters such as overall migration tests and specific migration tests”.

Srinivasa Gopal concluded his address by saying he has identified the importance of processed food products and said that it is important to produce and market good quality products for export and also domestic markets. 

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