Have you ever imagined, eating your food along with it’s packaging? Well, Scientists have been trying to replace plastic with something that could be eatable. Here we present to you the future of food packaging, “Edible Food Packaging“.
Recently, a new biodegradable film made of milk protein is discovered by a team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture led by Peggy Tomasula and Laetitia Bonnaillie which has the potential to keep food fresher and substitute plastic wraps.
This new milk-based protein Casein is used to develop an edible and biodegradable packaging material. The casein-based material is up to 500 times better than plastic at keeping oxygen away from food. This happens because proteins form a tighter network when they polymerize, as found out by the researchers. This milk wrap is even more effective than current edible packaging materials in the market made from starch as it protects food products that are sensitive to light.
Pure casein was a strong and effective oxygen blocker but it was relatively hard to handle and would dissolve in water too quickly. To make it stronger, citrus pectin and some salts were added to it which made it more resistant to moisture also.
“It feels like plastic wrap when you look at it and when you hold it, but it does not stretch as much,” Bonnaillie, a research chemical engineer with the USDA, told CBC News. She explained that while plastic wrap can stretch as much as 100 per cent, the casein film has about 20 percent stretch.
Nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be included in the future. It does not have much taste, the researchers say, but flavorings could be added.
“Applications we are thinking of now are those little single-serve packages that use so much plastic,” she said. “If you have children, they love them. It kind of hurts to use them but it’s so practical. One possibility is to wrap those tiny snacks with our film.” she further explained the purpose was to make a packaging that had zero waste.
The only con is the need to stay sanitary, they would have to be encased in a larger plastic or cardboard container for sale on store shelves to prevent them from getting wet or dirty.
In addition to being used as plastic pouches and wraps, this casein coating could be sprayed onto food, such as cereal flakes or bars to prevent soggy cereal. The spray also could line pizza or other food boxes to keep the grease from staining the packaging, or to serve as a lamination step for paper or cardboard food boxes or plastic pouches. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently banned the perfluorinated substances that used to coat these containers, so casein coatings could be a safe, biodegradable alternative.
Currently creating prototype film samples for a small company in Texas, the development has gathered interest among other companies, too. The group plans to keep making improvements, and she predicts this casein packaging will be on store shelves within 3 years.
Here is a visual depiction of the process of Edible Food Packaging. See the video below,