A raspberry for excess headspace

The January edition of Consumer Reports magazine takes aim at food packages that seem to promise more than they deliver, with Lay’s potato chips cited as exhibit A.

Nitrogen has a functional role in oily products like potato chips, but the message was lost in “black hole” awards lampooning bags of Lay’s chips.

Consumer Reports

The publication took a critical look at containers that its readers felt contain excessive “slack fill,” defined as nonfunctional or empty space that creates the illusion of more product than the package contains. The federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act prohibits excessive, nonfunctional slack fill, though no FDA enforcement has occurred in at least five years.

“Packaging gets enormous readership,” according to Todd Marks, who wrote the story, “Air to Spare.” “When our readers think they’re getting snookered, they write in to us.” Frito-Lay’s snacks are not an egregious example of half-filled bags of potato chips, just an example recommended by readers, he adds.

FDA defined permissible uses of slack fill in 1994, as a follow-up to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. According to Chicago attorney Eric Greenberg, exemptions to the misleading-container provisions are found in section 100.100 of Title 21 in the Code of Federal Regulations and include:

• product settling during shipping and handling

• containers with a secondary use

• minimum size needed for labeling, tamper-evident devices or pilferage prevention

• product protection

• package machinery requirements.

Some of the hold-harmless exemptions were cited by Frito-Lay customer service representatives when Marks “called as a consumer.” Left unsaid was that the bag is filled with nitrogen, not simply air, to retard rancidity caused by oxidation of the chips’ oil.  

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2015

Images from Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo in Clearwater Beach, Florida, April 12-15, 2015. The event brought food and beverage processors and suppliers together to gain valuable information on the latest trends and technologies in manufacturing, automation, sustainability and food safety.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

Food Engineering May 2015 Cover

2015 May

The May 2015 issue of Food Engineering explores effective tools for hitting manufacturing targets. Also, read how processors are looking for faster ways to detect harmful pathogens in food and beverages without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Plant Facility/Site Issues

What issue about your current plant facility/site keeps you up the most at night?
View Results Poll Archive


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Engineering Food Master 2015Food Master 2015 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.