Newly developed eco friendly food packaging material could be the next big thing in supermarket industry. Made out of natural chitosan-based composite film with grapefruit seed extract (GFSE), the new food packaging material is free from chemical additives. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who developed the food packaging material said that the new packaging can slow down fungal growth, doubling the shelf-life of perishable food, such as bread.
The new packaging is made of an innovative composite film that not only just checks the growth of fungi and bacteria, but also has the mechanical strength and flexibility that are comparable to synthetic polyethylene film commonly used for food packaging. It took three years of reasarch for Associate Professor Thian Eng San and PhD student Ms Tan Yi Min from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering to create the novel packaging material.
The composite film also effectively blocks ultraviolet light, hence slowing down the degradation of food products as a result of oxidation and photochemical deterioration reactions. The creators claimed that Chitosan, the natural and biodegradable polymer derived from the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans, has immense potential for applications in food technology, owing to its biocompatibility, non-toxicity, short time biodegradability and excellent film forming ability. Laboratory experiments showed that the shelf-life of bread samples packaged with chitosan-based GFSE composite films was two times longer than those packaged using synthetic packaging films.
“Increasing attention has been placed on the development of food packaging material with antimicrobial and antifungal properties, in order to improve food safety, extend shelf-life and to minimise the use of chemical preservatives. Consumers are also demanding that packaging materials be formulated from natural materials that are environmentally friendly and biodegradable while improving food preservation. This novel food packaging material that we have developed has the potential to be a useful material in food technology,” said Assoc Prof Thian.