Published 9 August 2016
Shopping for food and drink is not always easy – particularly when weighing up options regarding healthy eating and taste! But choosing a safe product should never be difficult. Experts from Stora Enso and our customer Tetra Pak explain why product safety is a top priority for both companies.
"Safety must be a given," says Gabi Pieper, Director of Food Packaging Safety at Tetra Pak. "People want to choose a product based on personal preference without needing to worry about the safety of its packaging."
Well-designed packaging protects food and beverages from any changes to their flavour, taste, or texture. And the great thing is that safety and other sustainability aspects of renewable packaging often go hand in hand.
"Safe fibre-based packaging is a smart choice in many ways," says Päivi Harju-Eloranta, Vice President for Sustainability at Stora Enso's Consumer Board division. "The environmental burden of renewable packaging represents only a fraction of the product's total footprint, and it protects the product inside and prevents food waste. Renewable materials like fibre from trees are also a solution for future generations, securing the supply of forests and packaging materials."
It's all in the process
As a general rule, consumers can trust that food safety is well regulated. Stora Enso's production in Europe complies with national legislation and the EU Food Packaging Framework Regulation, and follows the requirements set by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) when relevant. In China, Stora Enso's new Beihai Mill applies both local and European product safety requirements. Beyond mandatory regulations, Stora Enso has very strict food safety requirements of its own, which are a fundamental part of our daily operations. We also follow a voluntary industry guideline for product safety.
Stora Enso's own product safety control system includes risk management in production, safe chemical use, quality control, and material testing − from raw material sourcing to the delivery of the finished product. In competitive markets such as China, we believe that safety and responsibility are what set us apart.
Stora Enso's customers want verification of the safety and compliance of our products. Tetra Pak for example is known for its strict sustainability criteria. "Food safety is our number one priority that impacts everything we do," Pieper explains. "We rely on our suppliers to join us in maintaining the very high standards we have achieved. Our customers can focus on what they do best - making the food or beverage - and can rely on Tetra Pak and our strategic suppliers, such as Stora Enso, to ensure the safety of our packaging."
Focus on consumers
The safety of an individual product, however, is not immediately apparent to the consumer. Media scares can raise concerns about a raw material, a product, or an entire industry. "Complying with regulations is not enough. We must listen to the concerns of our customers if a certain chemical, for example, is no longer perceived well by the public, even if it's legal to use," says Pieper.
"While product safety should always be paramount, there is potential to use indicators to reassure consumers," adds Harju-Eloranta. "Stora Enso is developing intelligent packaging that could, for example, show if the packaging has been tampered with during its journey to the store shelf."
Our experts believe that the importance of reliable and safe packaging will remain:
"People need to eat, and food needs to be transported safely - packaging can ensure this," Harju-Eloranta contends. "Using refillable packaging for buying bulk food or other products, for example, would shift the responsibility for product safety from the producer to the consumer."
Pieper adds: "We need to ensure our products are sustainable, so that people can feel good about buying packaged food."