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SafeFood© Packaging

Back in the office after a few weeks away celebrating a graduation and enjoying a road trip with family. What struck me during multiple (daily) trips to the grocery store and a lot of eating at restaurants was the amount of unnecessary packaging materials. Is all that wrapping really necessary? Outings to the grocery store involved buying a variety of foods (remember 15 people with 15 different habits), and there was a lot to choose from -in addition to the oil filters, kid’s toys, and toiletries readily available!. I didn’t get the deal with portion control – will someone who wants to eat a dozen cookies really stop if they are packed into serving units of 3? Does generation of twice the packaging help the cause? Then when dining out, even at the few upscale, “white cloth” restaurants we selected as well as at hotel’s continental breakfasts – packages of ketchup, mayonnaise butter, jams, jellies, cream cheese etc were the norm. I know these foodservices can reuse the unopened packages once served to a table so the food cost considerations are likely driving the decisions, but it is really tacky to have the table littered with all this debris. Plus, it is messy just opening the dang things! How about portioning into small dishes and refilling as needed? There are other ways to control food cost without all this packaging. The individual units are an easy fix, but they come at a cost – extra packaging with resultant waste. Think about impact of the hospitality industry and the waste generated. We all know we should make efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. These efforts might include reducing waste by printing on both sides of paper, if indeed a hard copy of something is needed. Good stewardship might mean thinking beyond what is easy and convenient. Food for thought.
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Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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  1. I thought all that packaging was for food safety, but what you are saying is that there are ways to keep food safe without the packaging. I think convenience is a big factor. If we as consumers express our thoughts on packaging, I think manufacturing will follow suit. Thanks for your observations and sharing your suggestions on solving the over-packaging dilemma!