7 frequently asked questions about food packaging
If there is a "use by" or "use before date" on the packaging, it does not mean that after that date the food is no longer safe. If it is only 1 or 2 days past the expiration date and the food has not shown any signs of spoilage, it is still perfectly edible.
Expiry date on the packaging
Of course, it also depends on storage conditions. Store in the freezer, the refrigerator will be more secure than storing it outside. Besides, if the packaging has not been opened, it is also more secure.
If in doubt, you can find guides online about how long foods can last after their expiration date. Some will give instructions on both how to store food and how long it should be stored
2 – Why does the package swell?
Most foods carry bacteria. During storage, some bacteria grow and release gases. This is what causes the packaging to swell. Temperature can affect the growth rate of these bacteria. Therefore, to avoid bacteria growth, the refrigerator should be kept between 0 – 5oC.
Some types of meat packaging may also have gas inside. In this case, it's likely not a sign of danger. Some meats are packaged with alternative gases (usually CO2 or N2). This is a packaging technology that also aims to prolong the shelf life.
If you are not sure if a food is safe, you should check:
Has the food expired?
Is the packaging open?
Does the food have a strange smell?
If food has any of these 3 signs, it's best to throw it away immediately
3 – Is the food tray/container microwaveable?
Microwaves with plastics can release some harmful substances such as BPA, and phthalates (pfas) into food and drinks. Therefore, you should avoid microwaving plastic items. Except for some plastic items that are certified and labeled as micro cable.
Some symbols for the packaging that can be used with the microwave
Plastic products with the microwave symbol on the label can be used in the microwave. This symbol is commonly used for reusable plastic products and is safe to use with the microwave.
4 – What kind of packaging is recyclable?
Almost all plastics are recyclable, especially polyethylene products. Paper and carton products are all recyclable. Even if there is plastic mixed in (like duct tape on a carton box).
All types of polyethylene wrap are recyclable. Any plastic is other than PE is generally designated as general waste (to be buried).
5 – Which food packaging contains peas?
Phthalates (pfas) are chemicals added to polymers to increase strength and flexibility. It is often found in packages that need to be resistant to oil and water penetration.
Consumers are often worried when they hear it in the packaging because a study has linked it to a number of medical conditions with long-term exposure to it. Some of the diseases identified in the study included kidney cancer and thyroid disease.
However, more research is still needed to understand the probability and severity of the pathogenic potential of these plastics.
If you want to limit your exposure to pfas, they are often found in wrappers such as hamburger or sandwich wrappers, pizza boxes, popcorn boxes, and even paper cups.
6 – Does packaging transmit COVID?
While it is true that the coronavirus can survive on the surface of packaging materials, the possibility of COVID being transmitted by mail and parcels is unlikely.
Close contact with sick people is still the main way for the virus to spread. This means that social distancing, wearing a mask, disinfecting your hands and frequently touched surfaces are still the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19
7 – Is the packaging edible?
The short answer is yes. However, this type of packaging is only in the early stages of development.
Currently, only a small number of inventors are looking to turn certain foods such as seaweed, potatoes or milk proteins into edible packaging materials. However, the number of inventors exploring in this field is increasing gradually.
KFC's Edible Coffee Cup
In 2019 at the London Marathon, volunteers handed out small bags of sports drinks with edible packaging. Businesses like Lush are also experimenting with this type of packaging with peanut products packaged in edible packaging made from vegetable sprouts.
Despite these successful cases, it is currently inconclusive whether edible packaging will become mainstream in the future of the food packaging industry.