A U.S. Department of Agriculture research team is currently creating prototype film samples of edible food packaging made from milk proteins. The department is working with a small company in Texas, but says this new development has garnered interest among other companies, according to a piece published by Environmental Leader.
These films look similar to plastic wrap, but are 500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food. They are also biodegradable and edible.
According to the piece:
“The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage,” Tomasula said in a statement. “When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain.”
Some commercially available edible packaging varieties are already on the market, but these are typically made of starch, which is more porous and allows oxygen to seep through its microholes. The USDA researchers say their milk-based packaging has smaller pores and can thus create a tighter network that keeps oxygen out.
Co-lead researcher Laetitia Bonnaillie says the researchers are currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers. “For instance, individually wrapped cheese sticks use a large proportion of plastic — we would like to fix that.”