Is Mrs. Paul’s packaging full of air?


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 1, 2009

Mrs. Paul’s Lightly Breaded Tilapia Fillets is among the food products featuring packaging with a lot of empty space, according to a Consumer Reports investigation released on Tuesday.

In its January 2010 issue, Consumer Reports looked at what it dubbed “black-hole” packaging. It’s legal for a food company to fill packaging with empty space as long as it serves a purpose, such as preventing a product from breaking. But the U.S. Fair Packaging and Labeling Act prohibits excessive “slack fill” designed to deceive consumers into thinking they’re getting more product than they actually are.

Consumer Reports pointed out that the law allows for “plenty of wiggle room,” and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t acted on a slack-fill violation in five years.

In addition to Mrs. Paul’s Lightly Breaded Tilapia Fillets, Pasta Roni Garlic & Olive Oil Vermicelli, Quaker Oatmeal to Go Brown Sugar Cinnamon bars and One A Day Men’s 50+ Advantage vitamins are among the products listed in the investigation.

However, the investigation is not scientific — it relied primarily on input from readers. Consumer Reports said the results don’t necessarily represent the worst offenders, and the food companies were given the opportunity to explain the excessive slack fill.

“We get a lot of questions from frustrated readers asking why such packages are often so large relative to the amount of product inside,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports. “But even when extra space is perfectly legal, it’s natural to wonder whether you’re getting the amount of product you paid for.”

The Mrs. Paul’s frozen seafood brand is owned by Pinnacle Foods of Cherry Hill, N.J., which also owns the Van de Kamp’s frozen seafood brand.

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