Corn-Based Biodegradable Food Packaging Material Keeps Harmful Microbes at Bay

By: | January 6th, 2022

Image courtesy: NTU

Wastage and Eco-friendliness are the two major concerns within today’s food industry. Worldwide many people are starving, but a large amount of food gets discarded because it spoils before its consumption. 

Now researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, US, have come up with a solution. They have developed a ‘smart’ food packaging material that is not only biodegradable but also kills microbes harmful to humans. So this astounding material could help increase food safety by adding days to fresh foods’ shelf lives. 

The material is in the form of a transparent film

 The packaging material comprises a corn protein called zein, along with starch, cellulose, and other natural antibacterial compounds. 

Once the film is wrapped around a food item, the antibacterial compounds remain within the fibers. But with the increase in the humidity or production of enzymes from harmful bacteria, it releases natural antimicrobial compounds. These antimicrobial compounds, then proceed to kill the bacteria and fungi that may be present.  

To make the packaging work in varying environments, the material is designed to release the exact required amounts of antimicrobial. This material has the potential to be used for a variety of products, like ready-to-eat foods, raw meat, fruits, and vegetables.

 “The sustainable and biodegradable active food packaging, which has inbuilt technology to keep bacteria and fungus at bay, is of great importance to the food industry,” said Professor Mary Chan, who co-led the project. “It could serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based polymers used in commercial food packaging, such as plastic, which have a significant negative environmental impact.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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