An article released out of Norway this week highlights how researchers believe that the packaging of the future may be able to contain substances that kill or get rid of unwanted bacteria in the packages contents.
The researchers at the forefront of the project are investigating packaging potential at the Nofima Food Research Institute in Norway. The institute has created its own food packaging program which is being supported by the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products (FFL).
This new and growing area of research is being called biopackaging. It is studying how every year, household product large amounts of food waste and how that waste can be recycled into packaging.
“Today, biomaterials are mainly used for fruit, vegetables and dry food products (apart from fibre-based materials such as cardboard). Our goal should be to use more food waste for packaging. There is a huge potential here, but also many challenges,” says research scientist Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen, who is heading the program at Nofima.
One way to test the biomaterials for biopackaging is to find out if it can be replaced with traditional plastics. With a great deal of research and innovation still needed to garner success for more types of packaging, Nofima is currently turning to salmon and chicken packaging for testing.
“The greatest challenge is that biomaterials often have poor damp barriers, which in turn can affect the oxygen barrier. We recently tested the packing of salmon and chicken in starch-based packaging. The results show that the food products had a better colour towards the end of storage compared with the traditional materials, but they dried out. The reason is that the biomaterial absorbs moisture,” says Mr. Pettersen.
If proven successful, there will need to be major changes in waste handling and recycling to really get the full effects of bioplastics across to consumers.
Nofima is also testing the use of products like cinnamon, oregano, or lemon, on meat different meats and how it affects the shelf life of meat products and prevents the growth of bacteria.
“Some substances contain compounds that prevent bacteria from growing quickly. These antimicrobial substances can be spread on the packaging or mixed into the plastic material before it is remoulded into the correct shape. In or on the packaging, these substances make themselves useful by breaking down or preventing the growth of the unwanted bacteria. We have tested a selection of potential antimicrobial substances that are extracted from cinnamon or oregano, for example, and used in the packaging,” explains Mr Pettersen.
So far, the researchers have seen success when testing the antimicrobial substances found in cinnamon on plastic packaging of chicken.
“Compared with packaging without these agents, the antimicrobial substances helped to reduce the speed of bacterial growth at the start of the storage period. This is a good basis for further work on similar packaging solutions,” says Mr Pettersen.
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