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New packaging doubles the shelf-life of perishable food

Staff writer |
Covering leftovers with plastic wrap is a good way of keeping your food fresher for longer, but these wraps mainly prevent spoilage by sealing everything off from oxygen.

A new kind of natural packaging wrap derived from the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans could go significantly beyond the preservation potential of today’s plastic wrap.

Researchers have spent three years developing their new composite material, which they say can double the shelf-life of perishable food such as bread.

The film’s main constituent is chitosan, a polymer synthesised from the exoskeletons of crustaceans. According to team from the National University of Singapore, chitosan is an ideal material for use in food technology applications, as it’s bio-degradable and possesses an excellent film-forming ability.

The polymer is also non-toxic, which is important. The use of various synthetic materials in conventional plastic wrap has been an ongoing cause of concern since it was first developed several decades ago, for both health and environmental reasons.

Chitosan also has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, and the researchers have fortified the polymer with grapefruit seed extract (GFSE), which is antioxidant and possesses antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and fungicidal properties.

The resulting composite is comparable in strength and flexibility to regular food wrapping, but its molecular makeup means it can also prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria in foods it’s used to cover.

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