April 9, 2010
In the April issue of the Center for Science in the Public Interests (CSPI) Nutrition Action Healthletter, CSPI calls on the FDA and state attorneys generals to crack down on what it sees as excessive slack fill in food packaging, calling it illegal and a form of deceptionand an environmental nightmare to boot. The CSPI editorial cites Sugar-Free Jell-O, Nabisco Ginger Snaps, Hamburger Helper and Lean Cuisine products as examples of food manufacturers use of excessive packaging. CSPI noted the federal government regulations regarding slack fill, defined as the difference between the capacity of a container and the volume of product inside. The regulations limit slack fill to situations that require air in the packaging to protect the contents, or to account for product settling. But according to CSPI, food manufacturers are overstepping the rules bounds.
It would be disheartening, even shocking, if it werent so commonplace, Michael F. Jacobson executive director, CSPI, says in a press release. But as consumers weve almost come to expect that our food packages will be half full of food and half full of air. Slack fill is just one trick that food marketers employ to make us thing were getting more for our money than we are.
Jacobson also expresses concern about the environmental cost of shipping half-full containers: If food companies cut packages of Ginger Snaps or Hamburger Helper in half, what now takes two trucks to ship would only take one. Some of us might appreciate some extra space in our cupboards, too. He calls for the FDA or state attorneys general to take steps to ensure that consumers are getting their moneys worth at the grocery store.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association response to the CSPI editorial appears in Marketing Daily, saying: The realities are that there are a multitude of reasons why certain packages are certain sizes, including FDA food safety requirements as well as size, shape and rigidity requirements that enable products to withstand the demands of the supply chain (i.e., shipping, storing, etc.). Sustainability is a top priority for our industry -- we are working collaboratively with retailers to come up with innovative ways to reduce packaging to meet the demands of our consumers.
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