Recently food manufacturers have developed new innovative food packages and ready-to-eat processed food to keep up with the ever changing tastes of consumers. The main categories of packaged food are the bakery products, canned/dried processed food, frozen processed food, ready-to-eat meals, dairy products, diet snacks, processed meat, health drinks. And with this growth, the industry is set to witness a quantum jump to $50 billion by 2017 from $32 billion.
According to a latest survey by Assocham, "There has been a major shift in food habits in the metropolitan cities. About 79 per cent of households prefer to have instant food due to steep rise in dual income level, standard of living and convenience. The consumption of packaged food is much higher in the urban areas, especially metros, where life is fast-paced; attracting lot more companies to launch new types of products and variants."
Building on quality
Packaged food is always sealed, so there is a protective layer that minimizes the damage of the food. This reduces the chance to be contaminated, rather the food will be fresh and delicious and also less risky of causing food borne diseases. Packaging of food is not only important to keep the things inside clean from dirt, germs etc. It provides information regarding what's inside, its nutrition content, who made it and when it is manufactured, all sorts of important information that is needed, especially if a person is allergic to any of the ingredients. It has other advantage; during transportation it would be problematic without packaging. Packaging also provides information on how to prepare as the recipes is given inside the packaged food.
With every advantage they are also disadvantages in packaged food as one can't see the product inside properly and this makes it difficult to know what you're buying. The information in the packaging can even mislead a person. Packaging of a product even makes it expensive. With the same it also limits the choices of size to buy that package. Sometimes, the packaging of products like cans is difficult to open.
Considering the nutritional factor
Nutrition labels on the packaged food helps to provide information about the nutritional value of a food. The main goal is to help consumers in making healthier food choices. Therefore, “Nutritional and critical limits has to put on the packet” shared Dr. JLN Sastry, Head of Health care research, Dabur India Ltd.
Dietary supplement is another product which has gained a lot of importance in the recent times amongst the people. These includes not only medical foods nor functional foods, the use of dietary supplements for persons diagnosed with diabetics, cancer, heart disease, HIV and other chronic illnesses. “There should be practical guidelines for the people so that people can eat and enjoy the food which includes these supplements”, commented PP Roy, R&D Dirctor, Kelloggs India Ltd.
In terms of product safety, packaging must be done safely and also include ways to identify and track it in case a recall is necessary, like a batch ID and the date it was manufactured. The product must also be protected against microorganisms and insects. Any part of the package food has to meet certain regulations. “The only thing is the regulation which does not allow you to put anything on it”, pointed Sanjog Surve, Director, Abbott Nutrition R&D.
Certain general hygiene rules has to be follow for all the food businesses and for some certain types of food businesses like the food businesses which are handling or processing foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, milk processors, more specific hygiene rules should be followed.
The new term which is coming these days are ‘Green packaging’ for the materials and procedures and an environmentally friendly and effective solution. This green packaging is mainly used for fewer resources or using materials that are reusable, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable.
So, now every restaurants and hotels monitor as well as keep a track of when food is packaged and use. Hence, it is said to apply the same attention for hygiene and proper handling of food in the kitchen. “All the food items have to be checked until 6 times in the FSSAI labs” added Sastry.