FDA Approval for food packaging

Does food packaging need FDA approval?

Food packaging is an essential aspect of the food industry, ensuring that products are safely delivered to consumers.

With countless different types and designs of food packaging on the market today, it’s natural to question whether or not these materials need approval from government regulatory bodies. This brings us to our topic: Does food packaging require FDA approval?

In this blog post, we will explore whether or not FDA approval is necessary for food packaging and shed light on why this question has become increasingly relevant in recent years. 

So let’s dive into this topic and uncover what regulations surround food packaging and its impact on consumer health and safety.

FDA Approval for Food Packaging

Yes, food packaging does require FDA approval. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of all food packaging materials. They have established regulations that require all food packaging materials to be deemed safe for their intended use.

This includes direct food contact substances, as well as materials used in processing equipment. The FDA maintains a comprehensive list of substances that are approved for use in food contact materials and any substances not listed must undergo rigorous testing and review to receive FDA approval.

It’s important to note that while the FDA regulates these materials, it’s the responsibility of the packaging manufacturers to comply with the regulations and ensure their products are safe for food contact. This means that the FDA does not itself approve packaging materials but rather sets standards and enforces them to protect consumers.

Why is FDA approval necessary for food packaging?

FDA approval is essential for food packaging as it safeguards consumer health and builds trust in the food supply. This approval ensures that food contact materials are not harmful or toxic and won’t chemically react with the food.

It also helps prevent contaminants from leaching into the food from the packaging. Thus, FDA regulations act as a preventive measure against potential health hazards associated with food packaging materials.

This approval not only ensures safety but also contributes significantly to maintaining the food’s quality and shelf-life. Consumers rely on the FDA’s stringent regulations, trusting that the food they purchase is safe to consume, which underlines the importance of FDA approval for food packaging.

What types of food packaging require FDA approval?

All types of food packaging boxes require FDA approval, whether they come into direct contact with the food or not.

Here are some examples:

  1. Primary packaging: This is the material that directly contacts the food. It includes plastic wrap, aluminum cans, juice boxes and milk cartons.
  2. Secondary packaging: This type of packaging holds the primary packaging. It may not come in direct contact with the food but still requires FDA approval. This includes cereal boxes, frozen pizza boxes and bagged salad bags.
  3. Tertiary packaging: This packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and transport shipping. Examples include shipping cartons and pallet wrap. While it doesn’t directly contact food, its safety is crucial in preventing contamination during transportation and storage.
  4. Food service packaging: Items such as disposable cups, plates and utensils used in restaurants and cafeterias also require approval.
  5. Food processing equipment: Materials used in food processing machinery that come in contact with food, such as conveyor belts and food storage bins, also fall under FDA regulations.

Process of obtaining FDA approval for food packaging

The process of obtaining FDA approval for food packaging involves several crucial steps:

  1. Pre-market notification: The manufacturer or distributor of a new food contact substance (FCS) must provide the FDA with a notification of its intent to market the FCS. This notification identifies the substance and its intended use and includes information to demonstrate that the substance is safe under the conditions of use.
  2. Safety assessment: The FDA reviews the provided data and conducts a safety assessment. This assessment focuses on the potential for the substance to migrate into food and its possible human health effects.
  3. FDA response: The FDA has 120 days from the date of receipt of the pre-market notification to object to the substance’s use. If the FDA does not object within this period, the substance may be legally marketed.
  4. Compliance: Even after obtaining FDA approval, the manufacturer must continually ensure that their packaging meets all applicable FDA regulations for food contact substances. This includes maintaining quality control procedures, testing products and monitoring changes in regulations.

Pros and cons of requiring FDA approval for food packaging

While FDA approval for food packaging is generally considered necessary and beneficial, it also has its pros and cons.


  • Safety: The most significant advantage of requiring FDA approval is the assurance that food packaging materials are safe and do not pose a risk to consumers’ health.
  • Quality control: The FDA’s regulations ensure that manufacturers comply with quality control procedures, resulting in consistent and safe packaging.
  • Trust: FDA approval builds trust in the food supply among consumers by demonstrating that strict regulations are in place to protect their health.


  • Costs and delays: The process of obtaining FDA approval can be costly and time-consuming for manufacturers, leading to increased production costs and potential delays.
  • Stringent regulations: Some manufacturers may find the FDA’s regulations for food packaging too restrictive, limiting their ability to innovate and use certain materials.
  • Loopholes: There is always a possibility of loopholes in any regulatory system. Despite strict oversight, some unsafe materials may still enter the market, posing a risk to consumers’ health.

Overall, the pros of FDA approval far outweigh the cons, as it plays a crucial role in ensuring food safety and protecting public health. It also allows for continuous monitoring and improvements to food packaging materials to keep up with evolving scientific knowledge and technology.

The strict regulations may cause some challenges for manufacturers but ultimately they contribute to maintaining consumer trust in the food supply.


Can FDA-approved food packaging lose its approval?

Yes, continuous compliance with FDA regulations is necessary to maintain approval. If the FDA finds that a product no longer meets these regulations, it can rescind its approval.

Does FDA approval apply to the colorants, additives and coatings used in food packaging?

Yes, not just the material of the packaging but also any colorants, additives and coatings used must be FDA-approved. They all must be safe and not risk contaminating the food.

How does the FDA ensure the safety of food packaging materials?

The FDA conducts thorough reviews and assessments of data provided by manufacturers, as well as ongoing monitoring and compliance inspections to ensure the safety of food packaging materials.

Are there any exemptions to FDA approval for food packaging?

Some types of packaging may be exempt from the premarket notification process if they are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or fall under an exemption for substances used in low amounts. However, all food packaging materials must comply with FDA safety regulations.


FDA approval is necessary for all types of food packaging to ensure the safety and quality of our food. The regulations set by the FDA play a crucial role in protecting consumers from potential health hazards and maintaining trust in the food supply.

As technology advances and new materials enter the market, it’s essential to continually monitor and regulate food packaging materials to ensure their safety. 

So, next time you reach for that package of food on the shelf, you can have peace of mind knowing that it has undergone rigorous testing and is FDA-approved for your consumption.

Remember, food packaging may seem simple but without proper regulations and approvals, it could pose a significant risk to our health and well-being.