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"Active" food packaging cuts waste, say researchers

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 - 02:15

Jan. 14 - Last week's report by a British based institute suggesting that up to half of all food produced in the world is wasted may be a wake-up call to manufacturers across the globe. Food technicians in northern Spain are developing three types of 'active packaging' that they say could help producers make a significant dent in our waste pile. Jim Drury went to see for himself.

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We're all wasting more food than ever, up to half of the world's produce according to Britain's Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Their report released last week, says that with a rapidly growing global population, policymakers need to find smart solutions to prevent waste and make food go further. These scientists at Spain's Tecnalia institute believe they can help. They're developing three methods of active packaging designed to preserve food for longer, techniques that researcher Elana Diaz de Apodaca says will stop the rot - literally. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) ELENA DÍAZ DE APODACA, FOOD RESEARCHER AT TECNALIA, SAYING: "One of them is the incorporation of an active component directly in the packaging material, like we are doing here. Another option is the application of a layer of coating to the packaging. The third option is to place an active layer directly on the surface of the product." The team use natural antifungal compounds, like pectin and chitosan, in their research. Laura Fernandez says natural additives added directly into this packaging's ingredients will help the cheese stay fresh, even after it's been opened. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) LAURA FERNÁNDEZ, FOOD RESEARCHER AT TECNALIA, SAYING: "By doing this we can increase the lifespan once the packaging is open. The growth of mould is a big problem, so incorporating an anti-fungal component permanently in contact with the cheese will allow us to extend the cheese's lifespan once it's opened. " The team says all three methods being tested allow controlled migration of beneficial additives, as well as offering health and environmental benefits. SOUNDBITE (English) ELENA DÍAZ DE APODACA, FOOD RESEARCHER AT TECNALIA, SAYING: "The use of synthetic preservatives is being questioned because of, for example, allergies and consumers are demanding natural preservatives, together with environmentally friendly packaging materials." And with some of these environmentally friendly materials edible, there'll be even less waste to throw away. The greatest challenge, they say, may be in persuading consumers that edible packaging is an acceptable alternative but, either way, the Tecnalia team believe their work is food for thought.

"Active" food packaging cuts waste, say researchers

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 - 02:15

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