CSPI Takes On 'Slack Fill' In Food Packaging
In its latest food-related initiative, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is now urging the Food and Drug Administration and state attorneys general to "crack down" on "slack fill" in food packaging that does not conform to federal regulations.
Slack fill is the food industry's term for space within boxes/ packaging not taken up by food/ingredients, or the difference between the capacity of a container and the volume of product inside.
Federal regulations limit slack fill to instances in which leaving some air in the packaging helps protect the contents, or settling of the contents makes some slack fill unavoidable.
CSPI contends that violations of these regulations are "commonplace," and represent a form of consumer deception. "Unfortunately, the law is full of loopholes, and doesn't seem to be enforced," wrote CSPI executive Michael F. Jacobson in an editorial in the organization's "Nutrition Action Healthletter."
Smaller packages would also produce environmental benefits, including truckload consolidations enabling reduced trips/gas consumption/ pollution, and reductions in packaging materials such as plastics and cardboard, the nonprofit points out. Retailers and consumers would benefit by having more room on their home/store shelves, CSPI adds.
Jacobson suggests that if federal and state governmental bodies "can't or won't" enforce slack fill regulations, retailers could pressure suppliers to change their packaging. He points out that Walmart has estimated that its 2007 decision to sell only concentrated detergents will in three years result in eliminating the need for 80 million pounds of plastic resin, 430 million gallons of water, and 125 million pounds of cardboard.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association provided Marketing Daily with this response: "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."