A large amount of R&D is happening in the active/antimicrobial food packaging film space. Here is a quick overview of some of the many projects showing promise.

Scientists from the Department of Food Process Engineering, SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, India, have used coconut waste-derived nanofibres (CNF) to reinforce polyvinyl alcohol film, resulting in biodegradable packaging with better mechanical, thermal, optical, antioxidant properties; essential oils also boosted hydrophobic, antimicrobial properties, they claim.

The cellulose nanofibers were incorporated into polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) polymer matrix with linseed oil and lemon essential oil. The oil improved the antioxidant properties of the film and this PVA–CNF–oil-based composite showed good antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens. The mechanical and thermal properties of the bio nanocomposite film indicated superior quality compared to pure PVA film. The optical properties of the developed film were on par with polyethylene film, say the researchers.

Next, a cooperative project involving several academic institutions in Bangkok, Thailand and the Department of Materials Science and Technology in Nagaoka University, Japan has found cinnamaldehyde acts as crosslinking agent in gelatin-bacterial cellulose nanocomposite film, boosting its structural stability in water. The films also displayed non-toxicity and strong antibacterial activity, suggesting potential for use as food packaging.

Back in India, researchers at the Institute of Chemical Technology are exploring the potential of curcumin, present in turmeric, as a natural, non-toxic, eco-friendly antimicrobial in food packaging. The project is evaluating curcumin encapsulation with LDPE, polyvinyl acetate and other polymers.

Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the golden spice turmeric. Being derived from a ferulic acid, it shows excellent antimicrobial properties against bacterial pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli as well as fungal cultures such as Penicillium spp, the scientists claim. This makes it a potential agent in the food packaging industry.

Also, encapsulation has been explored with several polymer matrices. It has also been studied with metals like zinc as a complex which demonstrated an increase in the bioavailability of curcumin.

Finally, two Universities in Turkey working with the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that basil oil-loaded electro-spun biofibres (ESBFs) have ‘high potential’ for use as edible food packaging material. Zein/alginate-based fibres showed best tensile strength, antimicrobial activity at 20% basil oil encapsulation.

Oil-in-water emulsions of different basil oil and zein/alginate complexes were prepared, and their electrical conductivity and viscosity were measured to ensure their suitability for electrospinning. The morphology and chemical properties of the ESBFs were characterized and their mechanical and antimicrobial properties were discussed. This work represents a new direction for ESBFs as edible packaging materials, they say.

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). Packaging Europe and AIPIA are joining forces to bring news and commentary about the active and intelligent packaging landscape to a larger audience. To learn more about this partnership, click here.