The mission of the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP) is to elevate food packaging safety awareness and provide avenues for tools and training for the packaging supply chain.

With all that is in the news lately on providing safe food, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have bound together with packaging suppliers and third parties involved in training and standards. The name of this new coalition is the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP).

Its mission is to elevate food packaging safety awareness and provide avenues for tools and training for the packaging supply chain. FSAP members include several of the largest CPG companies such as General Mills, Sara Lee, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup and Nestlé.

“The best thing about this organization is the suppliers’ willingness to participate,” notes Wynn Wiksell, manager of packaging quality and regulatory operations at General Mills and FSAP’s chairman. “We have packaging suppliers like MeadWestvaco, Berry Plastics, Alcan and Sonoco leading their industries’ efforts.”

FSAP’s basic strategy is to have packaging suppliers follow the precepts of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), a system of preventing food safety threats by anticipating where in a production process they’re most likely to occur. The impetus for FSAP’s creation last year was to eliminate mislabeling wherever possible. The idea is to get suppliers of labels and direct-print materials like cartons to eliminate misprints and mix-ups that result in missing allergen declarations and inaccurate ingredient listings.

“FSAP initially focused on mislabeling, and still sees it as a primary target, because it’s the No. 1 reported reason for Food and Drug Administration recalls,” Wiksell says. FSAP’s goal is to encourage suppliers to use HACCP principles to prevent labeling errors by, for instance, properly using vision systems for verification. Even when such a system is in place, a supplier may not be using it effectively.

“We’ve seen issues where an [electronic] eye identifies a wrong carton but then the subsequent step of removing the wrong carton fails,” Wiksell says.

FSAP is targeting other safety aspects of packaging materials besides mislabeling, such as leaking or contaminated containers. The organization is concentrating on material suppliers for now, although Wiksell envisions working with machinery suppliers someday.

FSAP includes the American Institute of Baking (AIB) and the Packaging Association of Canada (PAC), organizations whose functions include training and conducting safety audits of factories. PAC, in particular, has generated (in conjunction with the Canadian government) a set of manuals for safe production of packaging materials. The PAC manual on plastics alone weighs about two pounds, according to Larry Dworkin, PAC’s director of governmental relations.

FSAP in all probability won’t get into that much detail, its officials say. Any guidelines it comes up with will be in the form of general principles rather than specific process recommendations.

Also to be decided is whether and how to certify compliance with HACCP principles. Wiksell says FSAP does not plan to audit supplier plants, which is dependent on the individual food producer, but has partnered with organizations like the PAC and AIB that can offer training, audits and certification if required.

In the next year, watch for the models on different packaging platforms to be placed on FSAP’s website.

Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP)