In the near future, the food packaging world will be very different. Today, researchers are developing novel packaging innovations. These innovations range from bacteria-fighting nanoparticles that are thinner than human hair, to electronic tongues that are able to taste products. The main goal of new food packaging technology is to make eating food easier as well as to eliminate food from being contaminated and discarded.
New Food Packaging Technology
Imagine eating the packaging that your food came in. Although it seems farfetched, edible rice paper-covered candy has been around in Japan for more than a century. Food receptacles called WikiCells have also been created at Harvard University. Inspiration for the project came from an apple, having admired the way the flesh of an apple is protected by its edible skin. So far, Harvard researchers have come up with melted chocolate in a cherry membrane, pumpkin soup in a spinach membrane, and a lemon membrane containing lemon juice.
Texas A&M University has found a way to use nanotechnology to create a new sustainable packaging technology. This micro packaging consists of clay particles, water, and a soluble polymer and is thousands of times thinner than hair. While certainly being extremely environmentally friendly, it has the preservation properties of glass and can hold the weight of soda pop without a problem.
Researchers at chemical and pharmaceutical giant company Bayer use clay nanoparticles in their Durethan plastic film to safeguard food from decomposing. Nanocor offers a nanocrystal plastic that prevents oxygen from escaping out of beer bottles. Nanocrystal packaging materials increase the shelf life of beer for another 18 months.
Researchers are developing packaging to detect the freshness of food and help it to stay fresh. One idea researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut in collaboration with Kraft Foods are working on is packaging with sensors. The sensors will be able to taste or test food to determine if it is safe for human consumption. After sensing the food, the color of the smart packaging will change. Depending on the color the packaging changes to, end-users will be able to see if the food is still fresh.
Another research team out of the Netherlands is working on packaging that will release instant preservatives. The idea is to release preservatives into the food to preserve it just before it goes bad.
Graduate student Ronen Gottesman, from Israel, has developed what he calls Killer Paper. This anti-microbial packaging fights against bacteria. The paper is coated with anti-bacterial silver nano-particles that help to prevent germs from contaminating food. The smaller the particles, the better they work. Camera company Kodak is also working on an anti-microbial material that keeps food fresh by absorbing oxygen.
U.S. water-soluble product manufacturing company MonoSol has developed an edible delivery system called Vivos. Manufacturers will be able to use this product to package powdered soups, drinks, cereals, and sauces. However, at the current stage of development, the product still requires an outer layer of protective packaging. The concept involves plastic film packaging in the form of food pouches that dissolve in hot water. According to MonoSol, you are unable to taste the plastic packaging once it dissolves.
Self-cooling, Self-heating packaging
Joseph Company International’s micro-cooling technology allows for the cooling of contents inside a can. The carbon dioxide absorbing Chill Can release carbon dioxide at the press of a button, in turn, cooling the product. Conversely, the HeatGenie developed by Crown Holdings is a self-heating packaging component embedded at the bottom of a product’s packaging. In fact, the food can be self-heated in minutes to 145 degrees Fahrenheit upon activation.
Apart from the consumer savings by preserving food products longer, and along with the inherent recycling merits, innovative food packaging designs and technology can save the military millions of dollars. God bless our troops and God bless the taxpayers. Amen. Tuck in.
Additional helpful reading: 5 Types of Eco-Friendly Food Packaging (and 3 to Avoid)
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