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IIT-M develops sustainable anti-bacterial food wrapper

Chennai, Oct 12 The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) on Monday said its researchers have developed a sustainable antimicrobial wrapping material that can prevent packaged food contamination by bacteria as well as reduce the plastic waste generated in the environment when disposing off the wrappers.

According to the team, this biodegradable food wrapper has an in-built anti-bacterial compound and is safe for consumption.

“We have developed a biodegradable wrapping material with in-built antibacterial activity to prevent bacterial growth in stored food,” study author Mukesh Doble from the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, said in a statement.

“The antibacterial compound should be safe for consumption as it is approved by the authorities and does not cause any toxicity,” Doble added.

The films developed by IIT team were made with polymeric blends containing starch, polyvinyl alcohol, cyclic beta glycans (CBG).

The composition was optimised to achieve the best film with a smooth texture, flexibility, uniform thickness and good clarity. The polymers used are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The antibacterial agent selected is also approved by the food authority for consumption and includes eugenol, chlorogenic acid, betanin, curcumin and gallic acid, among others.

These compounds are used regularly in Indian food and are known to possess antibacterial, antioxidant and many other beneficial bioactivities.

The compound is either immobilised on the surface or coated or mixed with polymer before preparation.

“The wrapping material we have developed also degrades at various environmental conditions with the rate of degradation varying from 4 to 98 per cent in 21 days,” Doble said.

“The wrapping material degraded rapidly in moist conditions when compared to dry ones. Hence, our wrapper is eco-friendly and can play a major role in plastic waste reduction,” Doble explained.

“Our antibacterial coated polymer wrapper was used for wrapping paneer, meat and chicken and its performance was tested,” said Puja Kumari, research scholar, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras.

Samples were placed in 4 degree Celsius and 30 degree Celsius for 10 days and tested for the effect of the coating on reducing the bacterial growth with respect to the uncoated wrapper.

“Our study found that 99.999 per cent reduction in the bacterial colonies was observed in food samples wrapped with our antibacterial wrap and stored at 30 degree Celsius for 10 days when compared with a plain wrapper,” Kumari added.