do you usually keep your food in a táper? You know, one of those containers where you store food or take your lunch. Well, many of them use materials that are not very environmentally friendly. But a group of scientists decided to improve them… and go even further. And they created the smart cup that takes care of your health.
They release antimicrobials
Nanyang Technological University -NTU-, Singapore and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School teamed up. They created a new waterproof polymer for food packaging. It is made from a corn protein called zein, starch and other biopolymers.
They exposed the material to increased moisture and enzymes from harmful bacteria. The packages were observed to release natural antimicrobial compounds. They attack dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and Listeria, as well as some types of fungi. The packaging is designed to release tiny amounts of antimicrobial compounds. But only in response to the presence of moisture or bacteria.
Professor Mary Chan is director of NTU’s Center for Antimicrobial Bioengineering. She says, “This has antimicrobial qualities in a wide variety of foods. It can be used in fish, meat, vegetables or fruits.” Thus, it minimizes the use of chemicals.
Maximum shelf life
In one experiment strawberries were wrapped with the new material. And they remained fresh for seven days before developing mold. They lasted three days longer than those in conventional plastic fruit boxes.
“Food safety and food waste is a societal challenge. It has great economic and public health impacts.” Says Philip Demokritou, professor at the Harvard Chan School.
“Efficient, biodegradable and non-toxic food packaging materials need to be developed. We use compounds derived from nature, including biopolymers. Also non-toxic and antimicrobial solvents. This is how we developed the smart cup that takes care of your health. It also reduces environmental impact and the use of non-biodegradable plastics worldwide. Let’s promote sustainable agri-food systems,” he concludes.