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IIT researchers develop anti-microbial wrapping material for prevention of packaged food contamination

The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), today said it has developed a sustainable anti-microbial wrapping material that could prevent packaged food contamination by bacteria as well as reduce the plastic waste generated in the environment while disposing the wrappers. This biodegradable food wrapper has an in-built anti-bacterial compound and was safe for consumption, a release from IIT-M said.

The IIT-M Team was recently awarded the ‘SITARE- Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Appreciation 2020’ for their project. The team of researchers, led by Prof Mukesh Doble, Department of Biotechnology, have also filed for an Indian patent. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste were produced every year. According to waste management experts, only nine per cent of all plastic waste gets recycled and about 12 per cent has been incinerated.

”Further, an estimated 600 million–almost one in 10 people in the world–fall ill after eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die every year”, the release said. Prof Doble said “Our idea is to design a food wrap that will address two major issues-solid waste and food contamination during storage due to bacterial growth.” ”We have developed a biodegradable wrapping material with in-built anti-bacterial activity to prevent bacterial growth in stored food. The anti-bacterial compound should be safe for consumption as it is approved by the authorities and does not cause any toxicity”, Prof Dobe said.

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

The films developed by IIT-M researchers 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 were approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).