Insurance Package Should Support Edible Packaging R&D

Edible Oohos capsules, made from seaweed-based Notpla, have recently attracted financial backing from a UK Government impressed by almost a year of trials and wishing to support plastic-free packaging innovation. But edible packaging may not be without risks, necessitating an examination of the types of insurance required by its manufacturers.

Gyms and leisure complexes will be key target retail outlets for the Notpla-packaged 100ml drinks being produced for use in dispensing machines. The 100%-edible material used to carry the liquid content is made from sodium alginate gel, naturally biodegradable in four to six weeks and a means through which the leisure sector can reduce its use of plastic.

The Oohos-packaged drinks have elicited positive feedback, including that from participants in the Virgin Media London Marathon, one of the events at which they were sampled. 82% of people delivered a verdict of “very appealing” – a big plus for a manufacturer that has signed the UK Plastics Pact.

Seaweed and other edible packaging housing other foodstuffs is likely to be increasingly seen on shelves and in vending machines in the near future. Some may be packaged in Wikicells – materials made from isomalt and sugar cane. Noodles and coffee may be packaged in seaweed capsules, produced in Indonesia, which will dissolve in hot water. Meanwhile, a variety of foods could be wrapped in film being produced from casein and milk proteins, thanks to development work in France and India.

Those seeking to eliminate plastics from our world will be jubilant at this news, but is there cause for concern for those with allergies? An Indonesian seaweed-packaging manufacturer has stated that there is “no allergy risk”, attached to its packaging, but should we question that? A February 2019 paper by Jason Thomas, MRCP, suggests that we might.

As the paper, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, states: “Patients allergic to seaweed should avoid all products containing seaweed, unless tolerance has been proved with negative skin and challenge test results.”

With the issue up in the air, businesses launching edible packaging should perhaps be cautious, ensure the right risk management is deployed, and be very aware of the need to protect their operation through the purchase of product recall insurance.

As with any other business involved with R&D, manufacturers of edible packaging should make sure they talk to an insurance broker and discuss the type of holistic protection that might be required, in terms of liability cover, financial protection and reputation management. Allergens have made many news headlines this year and it pays to be extremely cautious when creating anything that contains an allergen that could affect health and wellbeing.

If you need to talk to someone about your insurance requirements, and a package of protection for your business, please get in touch.