Incorrect food packaging

How to stop product being packed into incorrect food packaging

  • April 17, 2018

It seems like a pretty easy concept but unfortunately packing food product into incorrect food packaging is an all to common practice within the food industry. This error of judgement, can have the potential to cause customer illness and will often lead to a food product recall. In this post, find out consequences of this issue along with prevention strategies that will help your business avoid this issue.

Right product, right packaging

There are many examples of where food product has been packed into the incorrect food packaging. You only need to check your local food recall list. One of the worst that I have heard about is a food company that packed chocolate coated peanuts into packaging designed for chocolate coated sultanas (raisins).

Unfortunately, it not only occurred once, but twice, within 6 months. For this to happen again, it is clear to me that the business had not firstly, identified the original root cause and secondly, they had not implemented sufficient procedures to prevent a reoccurrence.

Consequences of incorrect food packaging

Depending on your type of food business and the food products that you handle, there can be varying consequences associated with packing the product into the incorrect food packaging. The worse case scenario is causing the death of one of your consumers. This can occur if the mislabelled or incorrectly packaged product contains a food allergen that the consumer maybe allergic to. In the peanut example above, it was only through good luck that a vulnerable consumer did not eat the product.

Other less severe consequences of incorrect food packaging can include:

  • Food recall or withdrawal
  • A loss in business revenue
  • Delayed production
  • Loss of consumer confidence in your food business and the products produced
  • An increase in business operational costs associated with rectification
  • Adverse media exposure

Prevention strategies

In the words of Desiderius Erasmus “Prevention is better than cure”. So, what can you do to stop product being packed into the incorrect food packaging in your food business? Here are a few strategies you may like to implement.

  • Staff Training: All staff should be adequately trained in packing, labelling and packaging procedures.
  • Distinctive packaging design: If you have similar products, ensure the design of the  food packaging is distinctive from each other. This was one of the problems with the peanut example. The only visual difference was the use of the words “peanuts” or “sultanas” on the front of pack.
  • Line clearance procedures: Whenever you change to packaging a different food product, implement effective packing line clearance checks.
  • Packaging checks: At a minimum, checks to confirm that the incorrect food packaging has not been used should be implemented on the first product packed and the last product packed, for each food product.
  • Food product release procedures: As an additional safeguard, implement product release procedures that include a check of the product packaging and label against what is inside the packaging.

To learn the basics of food labelling, click here to check out our free online webinar.

Regular monitoring is key

Effective regular monitoring and verification of all steps in the packing process is paramount. When you have multiple effective check points implemented, the risk of packing the product into the incorrect food packaging is significantly minimised.

Share your experience

Has this issue ever occurred in your food business? Maybe you were lucky enough to identify non-conforming product before it left your facility. Share your thoughts and experiences with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.


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