Laser-induced polymer surface modification is an emerging technique for imparting functional species to polymer surfaces. Laser technology, the important criteria in selecting an appropriate laser system and the principle of laser-assisted polymer surface modification are briefly discussed. Laser treatments have several benefits over other surface modification methods and new applications are being explored. Recent technological advances in laser surface modification and current applications of this technique pertaining to commonly used food packaging polymers are presented with state-of-the-art examples. Finally, the future applications of laser surface modified polymers in food packaging are examined and additional research requirements identified. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.