Scientists are developing a milk-based food packaging that will be biodegradable, sustainable and ediable
Plastic is a material that has been widely used for food packaging. Most of our grocery food items like meat, bread and cheeses come in plastic wraps today. Though plastic packaging has its benefits but disadvantages often outweigh them. Plastic packaging is mostly non-recyclable and accounts for most of non-biodegradable waste which ends up in landfill and creates environmental issues.
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Now, researchers have finally found a solution for that. They are now developing a food packaging that will be made from milk protein and will be safe to eat. The new packaging could be a better alternate for existing packaging materials. Not only does it will help reduce plastic waste but it will also not react with food inside and will increase the shelf life of a product.
“The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain.” Research leader Peggy Tomasula said in a statement.
To create edible food packaging, researchers working at U.S. Department of Agriculture are developing packaging films out of milk protein called casein. These films may look similar to plastic wrappings but is up to 500 times better in soaking up oxygen, thus preventing food from spoilage. Since these films are made from milk, you will not need to dump them.
Initially, researchers used pure casein to create packaging films, which turned out to be too hard to handle as they were easily dissolving in water. Then, a natural substance called citrus pectin was incorporated into it to make it stronger as well as more resistant to humidity and high temperatures.
The milk based films have potential use in a wide range of applications. Besides packaging, these films could be sprayed on cereal flakes to maintain their crunch. They can also be used inside other packaging materials to act as an oxygen absorber and to ensure long term food storage.
"The coatings applications for this product are endless," said co-author Laetitia Bonnaillie. “We are currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers. For instance, individually wrapped cheese sticks use a large proportion of plastic -- we would like to fix that.”
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Currently, the packaging does not have much taste. Flavors can be added to it and it can be made more nutritious by including vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals into it. Researchers predict the milk-based packaging will be available in market within three years.