Food packaging

Re-using food packaging - safety guidelines

If you are a manufacturer, it is your responsibility to make sure that the packaging you use is safe for its intended purpose. There will be specific tests to check that it is suitable for this use - and that the limits set in the legislation are met when it is used under the intended conditions.

Food packaging is often designed to be used just once with one type of food. It might not be safe to use with other foods or for a different purpose. If food packaging is used in ways other than those the manufacturer intended, chemicals could transfer from it into the food in greater amounts than would otherwise be expected.

Points to consider when re-using packaging

There are some points to bear in mind if you're thinking about re-using food containers or wrappings. It's important to:

  • be careful about re-using packaging with a different type of food to the one it contained when you bought it - for example, if you re-use water bottles to hold fruit juice the acidity may cause more chemicals to move from the plastic into the drink than would normally happen with water
  • remember that chemicals are less likely to transfer between packaging and food at lower temperatures - if you're planning to freeze puréed food in food grade plastic trays, make sure the food is cooled before you fill the trays
  • always follow the manufacturer's instructions on plastic containers
  • only microwave food in containers or tubs that are clearly labelled "microwave safe"
  • only put containers you want to use with food into a dishwasher if they're clearly labelled "dishwasher safe"
  • never re-use empty cans or tins to cook or store food