In a Manhattan federal court, Wise Foods had to defend its air-filled bags of chips. Called slack-fill, most chips bags have lots of air (really nitrogen).
Below, you can see a fill line that indicates approximately one-third of the bag has chips:
The Doritos bag appears to be even emptier:
As is Cape Cod:
A Wise Decision
During April, 2017, a case was filed in Manhattan Federal Court against the maker of Wise potato chips. The litigants alleged that they were “tricked…into paying for air” by bags that are 58% to 75% empty. They asserted that because bags of Wise Original Dipsy Doodles had less air, so too could the chips. As a class action lawsuit, the case could have generated millions of dollars in damages because of “non-functional slack-fill.”
But it didn’t.
The case was dismissed. The judge said “…that the slack-fill enclosed in the Products would not mislead a reasonable consumer.” In large print on the bag, we can read the weight of its contents. And perhaps most crucially, we all know the bag is filled with air.
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says slack-fill is okay as long as it is functional. Essentially, they are referring to the appropriate (and I suspect unknown) ratio of food to air. We do know that more air creates the cushion that keeps the chips whole. Furthermore, in the factory, the machinery needs the air space so it does not crush the chips when sealing the package. I even read that chips brought into high altitude regions need more air to prevent package seals from popping.
So we wind up with a tradeoff. We can have…
- Less air, more chips but they are shattered or
- More air, fewer chips but they are whole.
My sources and more: For some thoughts about slack, you might enjoy starting with the Nosh blog from Slate. Less recent, this BBC article is a handy source for slack-fill facts (and my unsourced images) as is this article for packaging insight.
Our featured image is from Pixabay.