6.3 Packaging store
All packaging materials should be stored in a mom that is not used for processing and is protected from rats, birds and insects. It is a common fault to concentrate on hygiene in the production area and ignore storerooms. However faeces from animals, insects or birds that contaminate packaging has a high chance of also contaminating the final product.
Rodents may also destroy packaging by eating it or making it into nesting which is a direct economic loss to the processor. Rooms should therefore be screened at doors and windows to prevent birds and insects, all drains and wall-roof joints should be made rodentproof, and the fabric of the storeroom (the roof, walls and floor) should be intact without holes that animals and insects could enter (Figure 6-2).
The storeroom should not be used for processing to minimize the entry of dust, dirt and food particles which would contaminate the packaging and in turn contaminate the product.
Packaging materials should be stored off the ground on shelves or pallets. This is especially true for papers, cardboard and films which are damaged by dampness (see also Sections 3.1.6, 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 ).
6.3.1 Preparation of packaging materials
Some materials are bought flat and must be made up into containers before filling. Examples include paper for bags, cardboard for boxes and film for packs. These preparation procedures are often dusty and may produce small pieces of material which could contaminate the product. Package make-up should therefore be done away from the filling and processing area and ideally in a room away from the processing room.
Other types of packaging such as pre-prepared glass, metal and plastic containers, require rinsing with clean water as a minimum before filling. Many will also require sterilization if there is a risk of contaminating the product or if the product is not to be further processed after filling and sealing.
The washing and preparation of re-used bottles and jars is most important. A good product packed in a dirty container will soon deteriorate. As a minimum all used jars and bottles should be thoroughly washed in detergent and then rinsed in clean water (chlorinated if necessary). An inspection at this stage is necessary to detect any trace smell of kerosene, petrol or other liquids that may have been stored in the container. If operators suspect that a container has been used to store insecticides, herbicides or other chemicals it should be discarded as it is not possible to clean the container properly.
Most glass containers also require sterilization by either steam or boiling water for at least ten minutes. This is important even if the product is to be filled hot into the jar or bottle because the heating will show up any weakness in the container and it will break before it is filled. The producer will therefore save any wasted product. This is discussed in more detail in Section 3.1.1.
All packaging should be routinely inspected for the common faults that are likely to occur with the particular material. An outline of these inspection procedures is given below and details are given in the individual sections for each packaging material.
6.3.2 Filling and sealing
The introduction of a packaging stage to a process will require a filling and sealing area to be set aside. This is a critical stage in the production of most packaged food, but particularly for those foods that are not processed further after filling and sealing. This is because at the filling stage it is often the last opportunity for the staff to properly inspect the food for contaminants, correct quality, etc.
It is also the stage at which the correct weight of food is filled into the container and it is the last stage that a package can be inspected by staff for foreign bodies or gross contamination before it is filled.
Great care should therefore be taken to ensure that the filling area and equipment are kept clean, free of waste food and away from open doors or windows. The lithting (either artificial or preferably natural light) should be good in the filling area to allow operators to inspect the product and packages as filling and sealing takes place.
Automatic or semi-automatic fillers are normally too expensive for small-scale producers, and their high capital cost cannot be justified in terms of the income generated at small production levels. Appropriate small-scale fillers are in general difficult to buy from suppliers and examples of locally made equipment are therefore described in Chapter 4. Sealing equipment for bottles, cans, jars, bags and boxes are described in detail under each section in Chapter 3.
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