Celebrating 50 years of Quality Food Packaging

Food Packaging Is Essential

By Jeff Cole
RSS feed icon

I’m not exactly sure when some people started to consider food packaging as evil or something that was detrimental to our very fabric of life. But I’ve noticed a few blogs and articles being written that would suggest such a thing. I think many of those bloggers and stone throwers are the types of folks that just need a cause to be angry with. And with some of the recent legislation being forced upon food operators and consumers that prevent them from making their own decisions regarding food packaging, it gives those toxic bloggers something to latch onto. Many times, most of what is written contain misleading and many times out right false facts. I’ve read things so bizarre and misleading, I sometimes wonder if the people writing these articles bother to do any research at all. So, I’d like to take just a few of the most common falsehoods and shed some easily verifiable facts to them for you.

The first is that many types of food packaging are not even needed.  For example say produce that are sometimes placed on foam trays and wrapped in plastic. Some argue that peppers, cumbers and the like have their own, natural wrapping and do not need extra protection. What they don’t tell  you is that a cucumber that is wrapped in this type of packaging increases its shelf life from 3 days to 14 days. Similarly, studies show that other types of produce such as apples and grapes that are placed on foam produce trays and wrapped will reduce product damage and waste by up to 27%. If it were up to this small group of people who dislike any type of food packaging, supermarkets and grocery stores would be throwing what would and should be, perfectly good food stuffs going into consumers homes, right into the dumpster. Another little fact they never tell you about is that 40% of the food produced in the US is never even consumed. Much of the reason is food spoilage that could have been avoided with the correct type of packaging. 34 million tons of food waste end up in the solid waste stream with 98% of that going into landfills where they will eventually produce methane gas. FYI methane gas is 20 times more damaging than CO2 and landfills account for 17% of the methane emissions.  Also and FYI, that foam tray and plastic wrap, when properly disposed of do not produce methane gases.  Lastly, food waste at supermarkets and other food operating establishments represents $40 billion in waste. Again, with the right type of food packaging, that number does not need to be so high. Food packaging will extend the product shelf life by preserving freshness, even when it gets to consumers homes as well as protect it from damage. Don’t take my word for it. Try an experiment on your own and see the results. The next time you buy a bunch of bananas, split the bunch in half. Wrap one half with the type of packaging I talked about and leave the other as is. See how many days those bananas last. You will be amazed at the results.

The second topic I’d like to cover is the call for all food packaging to be biodegradable/compostable. Anybody who has read my blogs previously knows I’m a believer in compostable packaging. In fact we offer a very wide selection of compostable packaging with our Harvest Fiber brand. What I am against is this dictator like approach that forces food service businesses into this one type of packaging. What these ill informed people fail to realize (including many legislators) is that while most of the traditional food packaging is manufactured right here in the US, nearly all of the compostable types of packaging are actually produced in China. Every time a ban is imposed in favor of one type of packaging not made here in the US, more pressure is placed on an already dwindling US labor force. Don’t get me wrong. Not all compostable packaging comes from overseas. Some companies, like your friends right here at Genpak do produce this type of packaging here in the US. But I think most of it still is imported. Another point the “pro ban” crowd fail to consider is the economic effects their lopsided legislation has on businesses. Most all compostable packaging costs much more than traditional packaging. The economics of supply and demand have not caught up in this category yet. I need to point out that the reason these items cost more is not because the manufacturers are just charging more, it’s simply because the raw materials cost more and the products are much heavier than their traditional counterparts.

The last point I’d like to bring up is safety, specifically for foam food packaging. The naysayers love to use scare tactics that would lead you to believe you’ll contract some awful disease, grow a third eye or become afflicted with some other malady. Foam food packaging has been used SAFELY for over 40 years. What they don’t tell you is many health organizations encourage the use of single-use food packaging, including foam packaging, because it provides increased food safety by helping prevent food borne illnesses. By using, say plates and bowls once, it significantly reduces food contamination and the spread of diseases.  According to a study done in Nevada and analyzed by a third party inspection agency, reusable food service items had much higher microbiological levels than single-use items. Using single-use items also eliminated possible cuts and scratches from chipped service ware and eliminated the need for dish washing that requires a great deal of electricity and water not to mention the possibility of water spillovers which could cause work place hazards. I’m not saying single use is perfect for ever situation, but I am saying it is a perfectly safe and viable, low cost option that has been successfully used for decades.

So, the next time you read some venomous article about food packaging do me a favor. Take a few minutes and confirm some the so called “facts”. You’ll quickly learn much of it is folk lore, half truths or complete falsehoods and it’s my guess you’ll debunk nearly everything being written.

Until next time…