Advantages & Disadvantages of Food Packaging

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A woman considering a selection in a grocery store. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

The increase in the need for food packaging across the United States has produced a debate on its advantages and disadvantages. Some of the pertinent issues are hygiene, toxins in packaging, environmental effects and consumer protection. Packaging has both negative and positive effects. However, information on these effects will help raise consumer awareness and help them choose packaging that is safe both personally and environmentally.

Hygiene

Food packaging helps in the hygienic transportation and storage of various foods and drinks. Packaging reduces exposure to contaminants in the air and bacteria during handling, which can lead to illness -- including food poisoning. However, there are concerns about the use of recycled material for food packaging. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has strict regulations to ensure hygiene and safety among manufacturers using recycled material. Packaging also helps in the hygienic storage of food at home as you do not have to leave the food exposed.

Shelf Life

Different packaging helps prolong the shelf life of various foods and drinks. For example, plastic allows you to modify the air while packaging, which helps prevent discoloration and prolongs the item's shelf life. Glass and metal containers also use this method to keep food fresh for longer. Additionally, the use of clear plastic and glass helps you identify any discoloration of food before purchasing. Lack of packaging exposes food to the air, which can make the food become dry, grow mold or spoil.

Environment

According to Duke University researchers Patrick Reaves and Michael Nolan, consumer packaging accounts for the largest amount of plastic and paper waste, which forms 20 percent of all landfills. Disposing food packaging reintroduces waste into the ecosystem, which has negative effects. Chelsea Rochman from the University of California at Davis explains that a majority of the waste is dangerous. For example, plastic is full of toxins that are either carcinogenic or affect the reproductive system. Additionally, most packaging is not biodegradable and affects the existence of both humans and animals, including marine life.

Cost

Food packaging increases the cost of food. According to The Site, packaging may account for 10 percent to 50 percent of the prices of food items. The need for smaller packaging that meets federal and health standards further increases the production cost, which manufacturers transfer to the consumer. Additionally, the storage and transportation of food in smaller packaging is more costly than in bulk.

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