Legal Requirements for Food Packaging in Australia

Food packaging is one of the most crucial parts of the food production process. Resultantly, any legal trouble related to it can lead to a sales ban on the specific food items.  A company may resolve the legal issues with time. However, it cannot bring back the investment, wasted time and lost market popularity. Therefore, when dealing with Australian packaging regulations, it’s better to be careful from the start instead of paying the price later on. As experts in the food packaging industry, we understand this, which is why, in this article, we will tell you what the legal requirements for food packaging in Australia are and how you can ensure that your food items comply with them.

The Legal Definition of a “Package”

The agency, named Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), is responsible for the food definitions, standards and regulations in Australia and New Zealand. According to their published regulatory document, “The Code“, a food package does not mean a container alone, but also any wrapper that carries the food. Furthermore, the encasing, containment or enclosure does not have to be complete to qualify as the package. If the food is partially covered or obscured from view, the covering or encasing also falls in line with the definition of a “package”, for example, meat trays.

What are the Legal Requirements for Food Packaging in Australia?

According to the Food Standards Code, food businesses:
  1. Must use packaging materials that fulfil the purpose they are made for. For instance, a packaging for biscuits must keep them intact and prevent sogginess while preserving their taste, freshness and colour. As a result, these packages should provide a barrier for keeping out moisture and harmful reactants and use a material that prevents food oil from seeping out.
  2. Must use non-toxic and safe material that does not cause any food contamination. For example, the extreme temperature during transportation may lead to the migration of packaging chemicals into the food. If these chemicals are hazardous to health, the entire package of food gets contaminated. Resultantly, these packages pose a serious threat to the consumers. Therefore, complying with this rule is of utmost importance.
  3. Must ensure that the food remains uncontaminated while being packed. During the packaging process, food items are at most risk from microbial contamination (fungi, bacterial, virus, etc.). Microbial contamination, if introduced, can result in returned food items, infected consumers and damage to the company’s market reputation. Not to mention the instant removal of the food product from the market. Therefore, it must be avoided at all costs.
Apart from these packaging regulations, FSANZ also provides guidelines and best practices to ensure the packaging is not capable of causing any health issues. In Standard 1.1.1, the agency explains that food packaging or the materials/articles used in making the packaging must remain harmless even when taken into the mouth. In addition, they should not have the capability of being swallowed or causing respiratory blockage or any bodily harm. Furthermore, the consumer should feel no “distress or discomfort” if these materials come into contact with their mouths (inside or outside).

Food Regulations, Australia: Metal Contaminants and Food Packaging

Schedule 19 of the Code “Maximum levels of contaminants and natural toxicants” provide details about the safe levels of metal, non-metal contaminants and natural toxicants allowed, for example, lead, vinyl chloride and erucic acid. While the preparation of food plays a part in increasing these contaminants, so does the food packaging. As already discussed, chemicals in the food packaging can seep into the food during transportation or if the consumer microwaves or heats the food with the packaging, leading to increased levels of metal, non-metal and natural toxicants. If that occurs, it becomes illegal to sell the said food items in the market.

Guidelines Related to Recycled or Reused Material

In 2016, FSANZ published a guidance document, “Save Food Australia,” which provided instructions related to the recycled materials. According to this document, the recycled and reused materials must have the same two qualities as the standard packaging material, that is:
  • They must serve the purpose they are intended to.
  • They must not contaminate the food they enclose in any way.
Also, since reused materials have higher chances of leaching, being unsanitary or getting damaged before the food reaches the retailer, the document raises concerns on the issue and asks the businesses to ensure that their packaging does not allow contaminants to enter the food (from the packaging and/or from the environment).

The National Packaging Target, Australia, 2025

In addition to the legal regulations, this article discusses, food production companies should also endeavour to make their packaging “Future-Proof.” The Australian government has mandated that by 2025, all the packaging in the country will be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable. Hence, it is also the legal obligations of businesses to make efforts to follow this mandate by the government and achieve it before the given time. Failure in doing so can cost them in terms of both money and time in the near future. Foreseeing this, Select Equip has provided the best, most cost-efficient and sustainable solutions to your packaging problems while ensuring that these solutions fulfil all the legal packaging regulations stated by the Australian authorities. Don’t believe us? Check out some of our brands and see for yourself!