News from CRIS: Thresholds – Trace Contaminate and Residue Regulations in Packaging

March 21, 2023

What is a trace contaminant and residue?

As we’ve discussed in prior posts, trace contaminants or residues are incredibly small particles, chemicals, or microorganisms that can make their way into our food system. These particles or microorganisms can include anything from bacteria to pesticides to minerals found in or on consumables like food and water.

What does packaging do?

Storing and transporting food is required to get foods and beverages from the farm or the source to our tables. There are numerous points in our distribution system where food and ingredients are stored, processed, packaged, transported, and then make their way to our plates.

All of the containers, packaging, and storage points require food- and beverage-contact-safe containers and packaging to follow regulations as well as safety protocols outlined in Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP). These protocols ensure our products remain safe for consumption.

Who regulates packaging and storage containers?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance on the materials allowed to come into contact with food and beverages, and manufacturers must meet or exceed these guidelines (1,2,3).

What types of packaging materials are commonly used?

There are numerous types of food-contact-safe packaging materials, products, and processes. Manufacturers commonly make packaging from plastics, cardboard, glass, metals, wood, and a combination of recycled materials.

It’s important to note that packaging may only be one of the numerous techniques to preserve food and beverage quality.

How can packaging prevent contamination?

Packaging keeps our foods from coming in contact with substances and pathogens that could potentially cause us harm or cause our foods to prematurely spoil.

Manufacturers use many techniques to preserve food quality, from safe transportation to the final packaged product that we purchase and then consume.

For example, after a manufacturer safely transports ingredients to a facility, they can create a food product that then needs packaging before heading to a supermarket. To keep the product safe and fresh, the manufacturer may add an antimicrobial additive to the plastic packaging to ensure the food doesn’t become contaminated with bacteria on its way to the supermarket and our eventual plate (1).


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