Edible, Biodegradable Food Packaging – Headline Science

Edible, Biodegradable Food Packaging – Headline Science


At the grocery store, most foods come wrapped
in plastic packaging. Not only does this create a lot of waste, but thin plastic films are
not great at preventing spoilage. To address these issues, scientists are now developing
a biodegradable film made of milk proteins and and you can eat it, to boot. Led by Peggy Tomasula, the team at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture developed an environmentally friendly film made of the milk protein casein.
These films are up to 500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food
and, because they are derived from milk, are biodegradable, sustainable and edible. The
researchers are presenting their work at the 252nd National Meeting of the American Chemical
Society. Although the researchers’ first attempt
using pure casein resulted in a strong and effective oxygen blocker, it was relatively
hard to handle and would dissolve in water too quickly. So they made a few improvements,
adding citrus pectin into the blend to make the packaging even stronger, and more resistant
to humidity and high temperatures. The material has a number of unique applications.
In addition to being used as plastic pouches and wraps, this casein coating could be sprayed
onto food, such as cereal bars or flakes. Right now, cereals keep their crunch in milk
due to a sugar coating. Instead of all that sugar, manufacturers could spray on casein-protein
coatings to prevent soggy cereal. Co-leader of the study, Laetitia Bonnaillie,
says the team is currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers.
Individual dried soup portions, or instant coffee wrapped in the film can be added to
hot water where the film readily dissolves, eliminating the packaging waste. Because single-serve
pouches would need to stay sanitary on store shelves, they would have to be encased in a larger plastic
or cardboard container to prevent them from getting wet or dirty. Tomasula and her team hope in the future their
casein based film helps foods keep fresh during shipping while decreasing the amount of plastic
waste entering landfills. Headline Science is produced by the American
Chemical Society. For more on the latest chemistry headlines, subscribe to the ACS YouTube channel.

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27 thoughts on “Edible, Biodegradable Food Packaging – Headline Science”

  • NOT Edible

    Research shows a strong association between the consumption of A1 casein
    and various health problems. Numerous studies, including data from the
    World Health Organization (WHO), have linked A1 with increased risk of
    heart disease, high cholesterol, type 1 diabetes, sudden infant death
    syndrome, and neurological disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia,
    and possibly allergies. But these health issues are not associated with
    consumption of A2 casein.
    NOT Biodegradable
    The total carbon footprint of the UK dairy sector, including emissions from dairy farms, transport, distribution, processing and end use, is estimated to be 15.5 million tonnes of CO₂  per year (Carbon Trust, 2011).  

    The guardian

    theguardian.com/environment/2009/aug/07/milk-environmental-impact

  • The use of milk proteins used in this product causes GREAT ANXIETY for those individuals who suffer with food allergies to milk and milk proteins!!! Very scary indeed! Please consider all of the many countless individuals who deal with food allergies before bringing something like that to market. AT THE VERY LEAST PLEASE LABEL THE PACKAGING AS SUCH: THIS BAG, WRAP, WHATEVER CONTAINS MILK PROTEIN!!!!!! Even skin contact causes systemic anaphylactic reactions in many milk allergic individuals.
    Sandy Henschel
    Oregon State Advocate for individuals with food allergies

  • Using casein protein derived from A1 protein cows will spread the A1 contamination factor even further… How did every A2 protein cow that supplied dairy products to America's baby boomer generation slowly and get killed off and an entire replacement to A1 protein cows secretly get established in this country… Why hasn't the dairy industry been fully investigated (maybe bribes and payoffs to Congressional Republicans) The bottom lines…

    The health effects of milk may depend on the breed of cow it came from.

    Currently, A2 milk is being marketed as a healthier choice than regular milk.

    It is claimed to have several health benefits, and to be easier to digest for people who are lactose intolerant.

    However, not all scientists agree that A2 milk is better for health.

    This article takes an objective look at the science behind A1 and A2 milk.

    What Do A1 and A2 Mean?

    Casein is the largest group of proteins in milk, making up about 80% of the total protein content.

    There are several types of casein in milk, and beta-casein is the second most common. Beta-casein exists in at least 13 different forms (1).

    The two most common forms of beta-casein are:

    A1 beta-casein: Milk from breeds of cows that originated in northern Europe is generally high in A1 beta-casein. A1 milk comes from breeds like the Holstein, Friesian, Ayrshire and British Shorthorn.
    A2 beta-casein: Milk that is high in A2 beta-casein is mainly found in breeds that originated in the Channel Islands and Southern France. This includes breeds like the Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais and Limousin (1, 2).
    Regular milk contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein, but A2 milk contains only A2 beta-casein.

    Some studies indicate that A1 beta-casein may be harmful, and that A2 beta-casein is a safer choice. This is the reason for the “A1 vs A2” debate.

    And why is there only one source of existing A2 cows on the planet located in New Zealand which licenses and sells A2 cow to sole proprietary interests i.e. a dairy in Colorado. Are there even A2 cows left in the Channel Islands?

  • So the goal was to reduce plastic waste by wrapping food items in a milk protein that for sanitation purposes has to be wrapped in plastic…

  • Musclebrain Smartypants says:

    This isn't new.. The problem doesn't seem to be finding ways to make bioplastics. The problem seems to be getting them out there and in widespread use.

  • That's amazing. I have been trying to live life with less plastic for many years now. Even if people cant eat the wrapping the wrapping is more biodegradable than plastic. Which I think is more of the point….except when they talk about wrapping the edible plastic in other plastic to keep it from getting dirty. jajaaja i guess one is better than many?
    https://www.change.org/p/bulk-barn-food-limited-is-becoming-more-environmentally-conscious/u/18006593

  • My daughter has a life-threatening allergy to milk and casein. If she ate a tiny amount of this it is potentially deadly. This is so dangerous!

  • Dreikelvin Media & Sound says:

    This sounds horrible. Using animal proteins to create a plastic alternative would increase the CO2 imprint created by the cowmeat & dairy industry. We should instead focus more on plant or bacteria-based solutions. Also, what about people with a milk-protein intolerance/allergy? Here in the netherlands, they are already using bacteria-produced, recyclable plastic for some products in the supermarket. I hope this trend continues!

  • Ronald Howdeshell says:

    If the single serve is placed into a larger plastic casing to protect it from getting dirty, would that not defeat the purpose?

  • They don't show the end product because milk protein-based "plastic packaging" is a natural base–i.e. it doesn't dissolve, it disperses into little chunks they don't want to show on video.

  • Shamic Entertainment says:

    To prevent soggy cereal? I like it a bit soggy, I hate crunchy cereal. I'm probably in the minority though.

  • TheaDragonSpirit says:

    This isn't sustainable the amount of cows needed. This is ridiculous. Get a plant based source. As the environmental impact from needing so many more cows would be ridiculous. You haven't thought this through properly.

  • Alison Stewart says:

    not eco friendly by using milk. The dairy industry is one of the top leading polluters in the world. Give me a break lol

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