Department: Food Science and Technology Government College Women University, Faisalabad.
Edible Food Packaging Nowadays food packaging trends are on peak and mostly plastic packaging is preferred for food. Food Industry is a 2nd largest industry of the world so that’s why food packaging materials of such type is causing pollution of drastic levels. The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased up to 230 million tons and food packaging is a significant part of that total. So, even a very small reduce in use of plastic food packaging would result in a considerable positive change in environment. Edible packaging offers hope, but it is a reality that plastic is hard to beat for packaging as it is versatile, light, cheap and gives excellent mechanical properties. Thus, development of edible/biodegradable coatings and films for effective food packaging has generated significant interest because of their potential to reduce or replace the plastic. For food packaging manufacturers require packaging material to be food grade, sustainable, non-reactive, maintain shelf life and quality of food. Scientific research on the production, applications, use and quality of the edible packaging has been carried out worldwide.
A large group of novel and alternative materials which have future commercial potential are those derived from under-utilized and utilized food ingredients or food grade ingredients. They provide packaging materials which are not just biodegradable in nature but also edible and a great opportunity for food manufacturer for commercial applications in a more sustainable way. However, more research on biodegradable/edible packaging at industrial level is required and still in its infancy stage. In a recent study, more than 20 food ingredients investigated for their film forming abilities and a number of optimized food grade polymers were produced over a variable concentrations. The ideal edible food packaging would be developed from a mixture of carbohydrates and proteins, biological polymers present in plant tissues. These polymers provide effective barriers to liquid and oxygen that are main spoilage agents in food.Edible films formed from protein polysaccharide powders give lower water vapour permeability, high elastic modulus, high tensile strength and elongation. Food grade plasticizers such as glycerol and sorbitol can make make edible polymer films more stretchy and flexible. Edible packaging makers prefer carbohydrates based packaging obtained from seaweeds. Some companies trying carbohydrates from other sources, using starches from potatoes to make cup cake holders, food bags and transparent films.
Along with the use of carbohydrates, proteins can also be used to develop edible packaging. Transparent films from the milk protein casein, that behave just like plastic and is a way to utilize product from dairy industry. According to USDA the films made of calcium caseinate protein with the combination of citrus polysaccharide pectin used for strenght and glycerol used as plastisizer give 500 times oxygen blocking effect as traditional plastic wrap. These films can be used to replace disposable plastic films that used to wrap cheese slices.The manufacturers of edible packaging recognize that it is impossible to totally replace the plastic but a dent can be make in its use. The commercial production of Edible packaging is limited at present and more research is required. Currently research is ongoing, but it is obvious that use of edible packaging has very bright future in food industry as it fulfills all the basic packaging requirements. Despite the advantages of edible packaging, a number of obstacles need to be overcome such as cost effectiveness and water vapour permeability barrier for their potential applications. The commercial production and application of edible films is still some way off, but the potential that edible food packaging possess is now being well realized.