Here at CRIS Bits, we focus on food ingredient safety. And typically we’re talking about the actual food. But its now looking like the food packaging itself might very well soon be edible.
The spray-on coating is currently under development by a team from the United States Department of Agriculture led by Peggy Tomasula. Tomasula presented her research at the meeting of the American Chemical Society this month, and expects that the product may hit store shelves within the next three years.
The coating is made from casein (a milk protein) and citrus pectin. Casein is exceptionally good at blocking oxygen – about 250 times better than plastic – and thus keeps food fresh longer. With the addition of citrus pectin, the researchers have been able to make the coating stronger and more resistant to humidity and high temperatures.
The product contains no lactose, so it shouldn’t affect those who are lactose intolerant. But casein allergies do exist, so that is a safety and labeling issue that will need to be considered.
The product – and presumably there will be others like it – could potentially reduce health and sustainability concerns associated with plastics.
The edible spray could be used, for example, to line pizza boxes or wrap up food products such as cheese sticks and instant coffee. It could even replace the sugar-coatings on cereal, providing a healthier way to keep our breakfast cereal from getting soggy.
At first, I had a hard time imagining myself crunching down on a granola bar, wrapper and all. But when I heard that flavors could be added to the coating, I started to become a little less skeptical. So long as we’re talking about an edible chocolate wrapper… now that’s something I’d be willing to consider.
Want to see the product development in action? Check out this video from the American Chemical Society.