‘Smart’ food packaging? Scientists unveil biodegradable food packaging made from corn protein

Scientists from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), explained that their plant-based waterproof packaging made from a corn protein called zein is designed to release “necessary miniscule amounts of antimicrobial compounds”​ only in response to the presence of additional humidity or bacteria ensuring that the packaging can endure several types of exposure environments and last for several months, explained researchers whose findings were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces​.

“Food safety and waste have become a major societal challenge of our times with immense public health and economic impact which compromises food security. One of the most efficient ways to enhance food safety and reduce spoilage and waste is to develop efficient biodegradable non-toxic food packaging materials,” ​said Philip Demokritou, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School and director of the Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology Center and co-director of the NTU-Harvard Initiative on Sustainable Nanotechnology, who co-led the study.

“In this study, we used nature-derived compounds including biopolymers, non-toxic solvents, and nature-inspired antimicrobials and develop scalable systems to synthesize smart antimicrobial materials which can be used not only to enhance food safety and quality but also to eliminate the harm to the environment and health and reduce the use of non-biodegradable plastics at global level and promote sustainable agri-food systems.”


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