By Dr Laurence Mott, Executive Vice President, Development & Engineering, Tetra Pak
Access to safe and nutritious food is vital for sustaining life, yet according to the World Health Organisation, almost one in ten people globally fall ill after eating contaminated food. Whilst the causes for this vary, it is often related to unprotected or unpackaged food supplies. Food safety is a critical issue that must be addressed as an industry. So how can the food and beverage (F&B) manufacturing industry help? How can it become smarter and more proactive to help prevent food safety issues in the future?
There are three main areas, which can help to future proof food packaging - food safety, food availability and sustainability. It is the interaction of these elements that will be fundamental in driving efficient and effective innovation to create sustainable and safe food products.
The recent research study, Tetra Pak Index, revealed that more than 50% of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the number one issue that companies need to tackle now, and in the future.
This requires a genuine emphasis on rethinking food production and finding solutions that will benefit all the players in the supply chain from farmer to consumer. From protecting food through chemical and microbiological means to packaging and distribution.
The pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of protection – to keep consumers safe, as well as to protect food and support the continuous delivery of food supplies during the most difficult of times. The good news is that by combining process, innovation and technologies, we can help food manufacturers meet many of the demands being placed on them, whether it’s enhancing food safety, better managing their supply chains or ensuring the greatest profitability in a complex and competitive world
According to the UN, by 2050 the global population is predicted to reach 9.7 billion people and the FAO says food production will need to be increased by 70% to meet this extra demand. But simultaneously there will be pressure on food manufacturers to decrease waste, emissions and resources. The most effective way to tackle the availability of food is to build a sustainable and regulated food value chain. At Tetra Pak, we have one materials food safety standard approach where all our packages are certified to three standards - EU, Chinese and US FDA. This gives us the flexibility in how we source and transport materials across different regions to ensure we can meet the changing demands of our customers.
Alongside legislation, feeding programmes and partnerships can play a vital role in helping to ensure everyone has access to safe nutrition, no matter their background. These programmes are also a perfect platform to encourage collaboration between different organisations across the food value chain.
We want to create the carton package of the future. One that is made solely from renewable or recycled packaging materials, is 100% recyclable and contributes to a low-carbon circular economy.
Food packaging must contribute to the sustainability drive. But when there is inconsistency with environmental legislation and food contact material legislation, issues arise. There must be alignment between the two, otherwise compromises will be made. Food safety cannot be compromised in favour of sustainability, and vice versa.
As well as the stress and high expenditure this inconsistency causes, it ultimately delays the approval process. And that is time we simply do not have.
100% natural fibre-based packaging, that is food safe, is well within our grasp. By collaborating with various partners along our value chain we can adopt a full ecosystem model to deliver speed of innovation and the food package of the future.
But we need regulatory harmonisation, otherwise we’ll face hurdles too high to climb, or be forced to compromise. Let’s not have any surprises. Working together to ensure a better line of sight for what the future looks like, where we can anticipate challenges and address them with vigour and pace early on, will be key to our success.