Eat Your Plastic Wrap

08 Sep 2006

A Spanish researcher, Javier Osés Fernández, has revealed that edible coatings based on various mixes of milk serum proteins, starch, and mesquite gum could be the basis for the next trend in food packaging. Such edible coatings could help packagers meet the demand from food companies for new packaging that can help prolong the shelf life of products, while being recyclable or biodegradable.

Currently, the food industry commonly uses vacuum packing, nitrogen sweeping and aluminum foil packaging, using a mixture of synthetic chemical compounds that are not completely biodegradable.

Fernández’s research, at Public University of Navarre, found that it was necessary to introduce a lot of glyercol to edible films in order to improve flexibility. However, glycerol increases permeability to water vapour and to counterbalance this effect mesquite gum was incorporated. This polysaccharide, which grows in dry and semi-arid regions of the north of Mexico, results in a resistant compound film.

“The use of mesquite gum is an economical and efficacious alternative with a promising future, not only for food conservation, but it could also become an economic resource for indigenous peoples, currently marginalized, as well as having the effect of reducing the desertisation of the soil,” Fernández suggests.

Despite the advantages proposed by edible coatings, several obstacles are halting development of such an alternative system. The main issue is that of cost. Given edible coatings are still in the research stage, enterprises do not have the technology needed to apply the system and for now its use is restricted to products with high added-value.

Source: Food Production Daily

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