It is an accepted fact that in India there is a severe lack of awareness, both among the consumers and a majority of companies involved in food as well as food packing business, about safety standards and regulations. However, in recent years the situation has improved, especially after a controversy surfaced two years ago involving a major multinational FMCG firm and its highly popular brand of instant noodles. Nevertheless, a large section of our population continues to remain exposed to subpar food standards. Adhesives solutions provider Henkel Adhesives has been extremely active in educating stakeholders, especially in nonmetro cities, about food safety issues such as migration and food regulation.
“We have been conducting workshops in various cities, both metro and non-metro. We have tried to create more awareness in smaller cities and among smaller brands about food safety issues. In addition to efforts put in by stakeholders like us, modern technology has also played a very vital role in spreading the awareness,” says Jayachandran Nair, business manager – flexible packaging adhesive, Henkel Adhesives Technologies India.
The road shows will continue this year as well and not only will these messages be reinforced but Henkel will take the food safety message to the next level, such as imparting information about Primary Aromatic Amine (PAA), which is a group of chemical substances from the wider group of amines. PAA specifically carries an aromatic residue. They are used industrially, for instance, to manufacture azo dyes and certain polymers. Certain PAA present a toxicological concern as they have been identified as carcinogenic. Because of this specific hazard, PAA stand out among the non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) found in flexible packaging. This means that special attention must be paid to ensure that they do not migrate into food at detectable levels.
For this year, Henkel has planned road shows in cities like Chennai, Indore and Ludhiana. It has also planned to connect customers and stakeholders with experts not only physically but also digitally. Throughout the year, Henkel will organize webinars where global experts from the flexible packaging industry will talk on various issues related to food safety.
On the regulation front in India, too, things have improved with FSSAI consolidating the plethora of archaic laws that previously existed. Nair believes FSSAI now has to set up labs, impart knowledge and put laws into practice. He adds that the industry has finally come to terms with the fact that laws will get stricter. “Our customers now ask us for food safety statement. There is almost 100% increase in request for food safety statement in the last couple years,” Nair informs.
“Our customers now ask us for food safety statement. There is almost 100% increase in request for food safety statement in the last couple years,” Nair informs.
However, despite noticeable improvement, many challenges remain. The prevalence of practice of selling in loose form at the commodity level across small mom and pop stores is widespread. Nair believes lack of packaging of basic food items like rice, pulses, spices, etc. is a huge challenge. Lack of enforcement of existing laws is another issue that needs to be considered. “India has great laws but when it comes to implementation, it becomes a challenge,” he says.
Henkel Flexible Packaging Academy completes two years
In addition to creating awareness about food safety issues, Henkel has also been working on skilling the Indian flexible packaging industry. One of the most important ingredient for success is to have ample skilled workforce. With this in mind, Henkel inaugurated the Henkel Flexible Packaging Academy in Navi Mumbai in February 2015. The academy provides formal training on lamination technology to entrepreneurs, production managers, supervisors, operators, quality control professionals of the flexible packaging industry. The Indian academy is the third such academy after Germany and China and caters to the Indian, Middle East and African markets.
During the last two years of its operation, the academy has trained 60 people from across the flexible packaging industry. There are about 4-5 batches every year. The week-long course combines essential theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical training. The modules are designed to cover all aspects of flexible packaging lamination techniques through practical experience on commercial scale lamination machine.
“The initiative has been very successful and there have been occasions when a company has sent people in more than one batch since there are limited seats in one batch. This shows the popularity of the program,” Nair shares. During the last couple of years, new topics such as inks and paper as substrate have been included on request of the participants.
For such training program to succeed, it is important that what is being taught is actually practised on the shop floor. Keeping this mind, participants are assigned projects that they take back and implement on their shop floors. “These are very result-oriented projects. People do one or two or sometimes three projects. Waste reduction exercise is a common project,” says Nair.
The certification is awarded after completion of training program and completion certificate is awarded after three months of reviewing the participant’s performance on shop floor post training. The certificate is jointly issued by Henkel and the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP).