Edible food packaging can eliminate for plastic containers: US scientists

A new edible food packaging technology, that can eliminate the need for plastic containers, could hit the market inside 12 months, according to US scientists.

According to US scientists, the packaging – named WikiCells – has been developed to hold pumpkin soup in a spinach membrane, lemon juice in a lemon membrane and melted chocolate in a cherry membrane.

Professor David Edwards, a biomedical engineer from Harvard University, is leading the research project.

He says WikiCells were the “future of food packaging”, and the edible packaging was already on sale at Paris ‘invention bar’ FoodLab, part of concept design outlet Lab Store.

“We are likely a year away from WikiCells entering the marketplace in a limited way,” he says. “It will take time but the future of food packaging is clearly the current reality of the apple and orange.”

The Harvard University-based team said that the comparisons could be drawn with existing foods, for instance, an apple where the content is shielded by a protective outside layer.

The packaging includes a membrane consists of charged particles (of edible substances) bound by electrostatic forces; this surrounds a liquid, foam or solid food and is then wrapped in an edible or biodegradable hard shell.

Prof. Edwards said: “Liquids are engulfed in membranes made primarily of natural food particles, and these membranes may (or may not) be enclosed in edible shells.

“You can wash the shell before eating. Or just peel it off and eat the soft membrane and eat-drink the inside material. The ‘inside material’ can be liquid, foam, emulsion or solid.”

However, Edwards clarified that the team still need to address medium and long-term stability issues.

“Currently we have good room temperature stability in the day time frame and long-term stability in a frozen time frame. We have intermediate stability in a refrigerated time frame,” he said. “We are currently seeing a room temperature stability similar to that of yoghurt, but we will improve it as we progresses.”

He added: “As we achieve better stability than that of the fruit today we will likely make certain trade-offs in terms of natural contents and edibility. So one question WikiCells raises is the desirability of mass production of long-lived containers”.

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