NUS Researchers Develop Novel Environment-Friendly, Biodegradable Packaging Material

Mar 15, 2016 04:20 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

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Often storing food is a major problem. Plastics commonly used to store leftover foods do not keep the food viable for long periods, as they are not effective enough to protect the edibles from oxygen.  Keeping this issue in mind, scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed an environment-friendly packaging material. This natural chitosan-based film has been made from grapefruit seed extract and is capable of improving food safety, quality as well as conservation.

Chitosan does not contain any chemical additive and, hence, is effective in retarding fungal growth, while increasing the shelf-life of perishable foods two-fold. It is a natural polymer obtained from shrimp shells and other crustaceans. The potential of this new packaging material is immense, as it is biocompatible, non-toxic and bio-degradable, Packaging Strategies reported.

Moreover, grapefruit seed extract also possesses antioxidant properties and is potently antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral, germicidal and fungicidal. The newly developed film also blocks ultraviolet (UV) rays, thereby inhibiting decomposition of perishable food products. At the same time, its mechanical strength and flexible are similar to that of synthetic polyethylene film, which is widely used for packaging food products.

NUS associate professor Thian Eng San and Ph.D. student Tan Yi Min from the university's Department of Mechanical Engineering spent nearly three years to perfect the formulation to develop this new composite film. Studies undertaken in the laboratory have shown that when packed with this natural film, the shelf-life of bread samples increased two-fold compared to those wrapped in a synthetic packaging film.

More focus has been given to developing a food packaging material possessing anti-microbial and anti-fungal attributes with a view to improving food safety, enhance shelf-life and diminish the use of chemical additives, Next Nature quoted Prof. Thian as saying.

He further said that these days, consumers are demanding new packaging material made from naturally available substances so that they are not only environment-friendly but also biodegradable. According to Prof. Thian concluded by saying that the new food packaging material developed by them possesses the potential to be effective in food technology.

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