The use of disposable foodservice packaging is a step toward preventing foodborne disease. By being used only once, these products significantly reduce food contamination and the spread of diseases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code authoritatively spells out the sanitary and health advantages of single-use foodservice packaging in specific situations: “A food establishment without facilities…for cleaning and sanitizing kitchenware and tableware shall provide only single-use kitchenware, single-service articles, and single-use articles for use by food employees and single-service articles for use by consumers.”

The Food Code further states “in situations in which the reuse of multiuse items could result in foodborne illness to consumers, single-service and single-use articles must be used to ensure safety.

Many disposable foodservice products can be made of plastic or plastic-coated paper: cups, plates, bowls, trays, food containers and cutlery, for example. Plastics are used because the material is lightweight and holds the temperature of hot/cold food and beverages.

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Disposable food packaging

Disposable food packaging comprises disposable items often found in fast food restaurants, takeout restaurants and kiosks, and catering establishments. Food serving items for picnics and parties are very similar. Typical disposable foodservice products are foam food containers, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, doilies and tray papers. These products can be made from a number of materials including plastics, paper, bioresins and bamboo.

Packaging of fast food and take-out food is necessary for the customer but involves a significant amount of material that ends up in landfill, recycling, composting, or litter.

In 1908, Samuel J. Crumbine[2] was a public health officer in Kansas. He was on a train when he witnessed one of his tuberculosis patients taking a drink of water from a common dipper and water bucket (a publicly shared way of drinking water) in the car. Right behind his patient was a young girl who drank from the same dipper and bucket. This inspired him to launch a crusade to ban publicly shared or common utensils in public places. Taking note of the trend, Lawrence Luellen and Hugh Moore invented a disposable paper cup called the “Health Cup” and later renamed the “Dixie Cup”.

Single-use cone cups were followed by the commercialization of single-use plates and bowls, wooden cutlery, and paper food wraps. By the 1930s these products were widely used to feed the men and women who worked on the remote dams, bridges and roads of the Works Progress Administration. In the 1940s they were used to feed defense factory workers.

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