That convenient plastic wrapper around your string cheese could soon be edible, thanks to the work of scientists at the USDA. According to a release by the American Chemical Society, a team of chemists have developed a new food safe, biodegradable, and edible film out of a milk protein called casein.
Researchers say the packaging is a sustainable alternative to plastic film packaging that’s wasteful and has been known to leach potentially harmful compounds into food. The milk-based product is also better at protecting food from oxygenation, which could help “prevent food spoilage.”
"It feels like plastic wrap, when you look at it and when you hold it, but it does not stretch as much," co-leader of the study and USDA chemical engineer Laetitia Bonnaillie tells the CBC. "The purpose was to make a packaging that had zero waste." The USDA began researching plastic alternatives as a way to utilize the United State’s excess stock of milk powder. While the prototype is tasteless, the research team predicts that the packaging could be altered with added flavorings.
The special protein sealant could also someday make its way into your bowl of corn flakes. According to the chemists, the milk product works as a healthier alternative to sugary coatings used to prevent soggy cereals and sprays on pizza delivery boxes that protect against grease stains. Alas, the product is still in testing stages. The Mirror reports that the milk film could make its way into mass production within the next three years.
This isn’t the first time someone’s invented an alternative to traditional food packaging. In 2012, a Bob’s burger chain in Brazil unveiled edible wrappers at its restaurants and last year KFCs in the UK started slinging coffee in cookie cups. 3D printing technology is also being applied to the study of packaging alternatives. In an internet-winning stunt Brooklyn pizzeria Vinnie’s proposed an edible pizza box made out of pizza, which if you think about it doesn’t really solve any problems.
• Edible Food Packaging Made From Milk Proteins [Eureka Alert!]
• Milk Protein Used to Make Biodegradable Food Wrap [CBC]
• Edible Clingfilm Made From Milk Could Be on Shelves Within Three Years [Mirror]
• All Food Tech Coverage [E]