Welcome to the first edition of the Food Packaging Safety Forum. We at Food & Beverage Packaging are excited to explore the subject of packaging safety and suitability and offer expert insight into these topics with these monthly columns.

The priorities and demands of food safety generally, and packaging safety specifically, have evolved over the years. In years past, for whatever reason, food packaging received low scrutiny relating to the risks of food safety and consumer satisfaction. As such, packaging materials and component manufacturers, and producers, may or may not have been attentive to the requirements and expectations of safety for the products that they provided. Some may have even felt that the rigorous regulations and precepts for food safety did not apply on the same level to packaging materials. Their perception was confirmed by food safety and regulatory agencies, which did not put the same level of resources and effort into addressing, controlling and evaluating the safety and control of packaging materials as they did for edible components and comestible products.

Now, in 2014, we have the ability to see and search anything, anywhere on our pocket computers (cleverly disguised as telephones), and the federal government has responded to consumer alarm over food safety and suitability by passing the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which gives FDA the power and a public mandate to provide guidance and expectations and apply enforcement as never before. The impression in the industry was that the public applied unusual pressure to their elected officials due to their newfound awareness of just how many food safety incidents were occurring. It seemed at one point that virtually every night, the lead story on the news or web related to an incident regarding food safety, quality or suitability. The mere mention of the possibility of the question of safety drove consumers and producers to sleepless nights.

Handlers of foodstuffs and ingredients are being held to unprecedented levels of quality expectations and as one would expect, food-related non-comestibles are not exempted or eliminated from scrutiny. Consumers and safety/quality industry professionals have been tuned in and beating the drum for years. Now it appears, everyone is, or should be listening.

The coming installments of the Food and Beverage Packaging Safety Forum will be discussing various aspects of food packaging and materials safety with relevancy to every facet of the discipline including processing, handling and converting equipment, raw materials, intermediate products, finished (converted) packaging goods, wholesalers, food processors, packaged convenience foods manufacturers, contract manufacturers, storage, transportation and handling, quality organizations and other related stakeholders of quality, safety and suitability.

About the author: Gary Kestenbaum is the Sr. Food Packaging Safety Consultant at EHA Consulting Group, Inc. (ehagroup.com). Kestenbaum has 40 years of experience in the food industry including functional assignments as a food ingredient supplier with National Starch, a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and a packaging developer and packaging engineer with Kraft Foods.