Completing verification checks of your food labels can save your business thousands of dollars along with avoiding a food product recall. Every food company should be verifying the labeling information on their food packaging. This activity should be part of your verification schedule. In this post, find out some checks that you can implement within your food business to help avoid a whole lot of stress.
Purpose of verifying food labels
The reason that we want to identify or verify food labeling that goes on the food packaging is to make sure that it’s actually correct. This is not part of actually coming up with the information that goes on the packaging, but rather a verification process between the food business and the printer or the packaging supplier. The aim is to make sure that the right information has been included on the packaging.
Pre-printed Food Labels
Before we jump into the checks or verification we need to complete, it is good to understand the type of food labels under consideration. If your food business receives any type of pre-printed label or pre-printed packaging, this check applies to you. It also relates to labels that are printed in-house. These types of labels or food packaging may show information relating to your finished product including (but not limited to):
- Food product name
- Nutritional information
- Allergen advice
- Weights and/or measures
- Manufacturers details
- Country of Origin
- Product Claims
Approved Label Artwork
As a rule, any pre-printed food labels or food packaging will have been designed and approved by the relevant authority in your business. This may be your compliance manager, QA representative or marketing team. Approved artwork is provided by your design or printing company prior to any print job commencing. This is to ensure that all information in the ‘proof’ is correct. As part of the artwork approval process, you are required to verify that all information is true and correct. This includes the nutrition panel, ingredient statements, weight of the finished product, product descriptions, the name of the product, even down to the barcoding or the traceability information.
Food packaging run sample
When the information is with the packaging printer we want to see a sample, a first run, before they go any further. What can happen is that printing companies can do can have the approved artwork come through but when they make the printing plates up, errors can and in my experience, have occurred. So, it is a good idea to see the first sample run before the printer starting printing the full run. It is essential that you also complete this step for all labels that you print onsite and compare the information printed to your approved finished product specification.
Checks on receival
When any pre-printed labels or food packaging is received into your food business, a check should be made before allowing it to be used in the production area. This check involves comparing the correctness of the received packaging material against the approved food label or food packaging artwork proof. It is worthwhile having a procedure in place around receiving packaging. The areas we want to check here and verify include:
- The Barcode – make sure that the barcode scans.
- Printing is correct – check all the information on the packaging is actually correct. This really is just a double check of that first sample run that comes from the printers. I have been involved in situations where there has actually been a difference from that first print run to what actually gets delivered to the business.
- Legibility – make sure that the label is clearly printed so the information is easily read by the consumer or purchaser.
Record your verification
Like any type of verification activity, a record should be kept evidencing that the check was undertaken. You may choose to record the product name, date received, packaging or food label batch codes, name and signature of the person who undertook the review, a copy of the approved artwork proof and an indication of which areas have been checked.
Accuracy of Food Product Barcodes
A word of advice, when you undertake your checks, don’t forget to include the printed barcode or Q-Code. I have been privy to situations where the pre-printed packaging has included to wrong barcode or scanning code. On all occasions, a food recall was required as the product was not able to be scanned correctly by the retailers.
Are you compliant?
Do you currently implement a food label verification check when labels or packaging are received into your food business? HACCP Mentor provides tools and templates to help your label verification process including training on ‘How to Review your Food Labels‘. Share your thoughts with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.