U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research January 2002


Anyone who has ever been to a picnic knows insects are drawn to food. That’s why developing new methods to keep insects out of food in packages, warehouses, and processing plants is critical for food manufacturers. New and innovative methods are needed because the industry is challenged to reduce pesticide use while ensuring that food products are insect-free. To meet these challenges, a team of ARS scientists at the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kansas, is working closely with industry.

Keep Out, Bug!

Keeping food in containers is one of the oldest ways to protect food from insects. Ancient historical documents describe the use of crude containers, such as gourds, leaves, shells, animal skins, and even human skulls. In the 1800s, people turned to paperboard boxes, paper bags, and tin cans to preserve perishables. In the 1900s, the most popular materials for preserving food were aluminum foil, cellophane bags, and plastic.

Today, restrictions on pesticide use and having fewer sanitation personnel at various points along the distribution chain have made insect-resistant packaging even more important to consumers and to food or feed manufacturers.