Food active packaging can protect food from microbial contamination, while food smart packaging can monitor food freshness or quality changes in real time. Curcumin, as the main active substance of turmeric, has the preservation effect of antibacterial, antioxidant and UV shielding, and can act as a photosensitizer to produce reactive oxygen species under specific wavelength irradiation to destroy bacterial cell membranes and play the purpose of antibacterial. In addition, curcumin can also be used as an acid-base indicator to monitor and indicate the deterioration of food in real time, and it has been widely used in food activity and intelligent packaging. In this paper, the structure and physicochemical properties of curcumin were introduced, and the mechanism and research progress of curcumin as antibacterial agent, antioxidant, UV shielding agent, photosensitizer and acid-base indicator used in food active and intelligent packaging were discussed. Suggestions for further research and development of curcumin in food packaging were also put forward. In order to provide theoretical reference for the research of curcumin in food packaging in the future.