This paper gives an overview of the legal consequences of a new EU framework regulation on food contact materials which includes controls on active and intelligent packaging. Recent developments in active and intelligent packaging systems are described, two examples of which aim at achieving improvements in quality and safety of food products. The first one is an on-command preservative-releasing packaging system. The second system is an intelligent concept, based on the development of a non-invasive microbial growth sensor to monitor the sterility of food products. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.