food packaging

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Modified-Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Air in a plastic container can be modified to prolong shelf life and slow down colour deterioration.

MAP is used to package:

  • cold meats
  • smoked fish
  • cheeses
  • salads
  • fresh pasta
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Environmentally friendly packaging

Environmentally friendly packaging causes less damage to the environment. There are three types:

  • Reusable packaging can be cleaned and re-used. For example, glass milk bottles are reused.
  • Recyclable packaging is made of materials that can be used again, usually after processing. Recyclable materials 
  • Biodegradable packaging will easily break down in the soil or the atmosphere.

Recyclable packaging should carry standard symbols that show what the product is made from and how it can be recycled.

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Layers of packaging

There are three levels of packaging

primary packaging, secondary packaging, transit packaging (

  • Primary packaging is seen at the point of sale. It needs to contain and protect the food product, as well as display it and provide information.
  • Secondary packaging is the middle layer of packaging - for example a cardboard box with a number of identical products inside.
  • Transit packaging is the outer container that allows easier handling during transfer between factory, distribution centres and retailers
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The Food Labelling Regulations of 1996 require certain information to be given on all pre-packed foods. These requirements are written by the EU.

Food labelling on a can of peas - manufacturer's name, name of product, illustration, symbol for average quantity, weight, description, special claim, price (

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Food labelling on a can of peas - nutritional value, customer guarantee, manufacturer's name and address, best before date, batch code, bar code, storage instructions, cooking and heating instructions, opening instructions and ingredients (

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Labelling required by the law

These are the items on the label that are required by law.

  • manufacturer's name and contact details
  • name of the product
  • description of the product
  • weight (some foods are exempt, for example bread)
  • ingredients (listed in descending order of weight)
  • cooking/heating instructions
  • storage instructions
  • shelf life
  • place of origin
  • allergy information
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Labelling not required by law

The following items are not legal requirements, but are nevertheless good practice and often included on packaging:

  • illustration of product
  • price
  • nutritional values of the product
  • customer guarantee
  • the batch-code and bar-code numbers
  • opening instructions
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Nutritional Information

The Food Standards Agency devised a traffic light system to make it easier for consumers to know the nutritional content of food.

Nutritional software can be used to analyse the nutritional content of foods.

The packaging for some pies shows nutritional information in an easy-to-understand way, using green, amber and red to show many fats, sugars, etc the food contains. (

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