It's always disappointing when you purchase crackers, cereal or chips and realize that the box is actually only half full. But did you ever stop to think about how environmentally harmful and wasteful it is, too?
The food industry calls these airy pockets in product containers "slack fill." You may also recognize it by the term "packaged by weight, not by volume." But the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and many consumers consider it a raw deal.
Slack fill is defined as the difference between the capacity of a container and the volume of product inside. Some slack fill is unavoidable as contents settle in their packages, air pockets form. But some companies abuse slack fill quotas, knowingly pumping more air into packaging than needed. Said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, "Slack fill is just one trick that food marketers employ to make us think we're getting more for our money than we are."
Aside from cheating consumers, slack fill is a huge environmental concern. After all, if food companies got rid of slack fill, they'd be able to ship more product in smaller containers and require fewer trucks to transport goods. Did you know that packaging is a major part of the waste stream? (Then again, so is food waste.)
"Some of us might appreciate some extra space in our cupboards, too," said Jacobson. "I wish the Food and Drug Administration or state attorneys general would take steps to ensure that consumers are getting their moneys worth at the grocery store."
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