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IIT-M develops wrapper that keeps food fresh for ten days

CHENNAI: Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed an anti-bacterial and biodegradable food wrapping material that could store perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat and paneer fresh for as long as 10 days without the need for refrigeration.
The wrapper was also found to degrade in 21 days making it an alternative to plastic wrappers and reduce plastic waste.
Professor Mukesh Doble, department of biotechnology, said the material is a flexible film made with a polymeric blend containing starch, polyvinyl alcohol and cyclic beta glucans, a form of carbohydrate, that are non-toxic and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US. They were coated with antibacterial agents, also approved by FDA for consumption, which includes eugenol, found in nutmeg, cinnamon and basil, chlorogenic acid found in coffee, betanin, the red pigment in beetroot, curcumin in turmeric and gallic acid found in tea leaves and oak bark.
“Generally, food is stored at 4°C. We wanted to test the wrapper in 30°C when normally bacteria grow faster. We found that 99.99% reduction in bacterial colonies in the food wrapped with our antibacterial wrapper that were stored at 30 degC for 10 days,” said Doble who led the research with Puja Kumari, a research scholar. “The other advantage is that our material degrades unlike the commonly used wrapping material like low density polyethylene, linear low-density polyethylene and polypropylene which don’t degrade,” he added. The professor said the wrapping material could also be an alternative to use of harsh chemicals to prevent bacterial growth on perishable items like fruits that are exported. The team has applied for a patent.
The researchers also found that the wrapping material degraded at various environmental conditions with rate of degradation varying from 4 to 98% in 21 days. The material degraded rapidly in moist condition when compared to dry ones. “We are in talks with manufacturers in Gujarat. Cost is an important factor in India. If we can produce it on a large scale, we can bring the cost down,” the professor said.