Photo courtesy of Zab Milenko at English Wikipedia – Under Creative Commons License

Edible Plastic Alternative

Here at the Save the Earth Cooperative we have long been talking about the need for solutions to the proliferation of plastics for food packaging and preservation. Everywhere we look all we see is plastic in the supermarket, in the fridge, and, to our great shame, littering the streets. But what if there was a non-chemical alternative to these plastics? ( The solution to littering, we think, is more an ethical behaviour change).

Research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry discovered a film largely made from the essential oils of clove and oregano – both staple ingredients in any foodie’s kitchen and both known for their healing properties. This film kept food in a fresh state for a longer period of time and without the dangers of toxic absorption into the foodstuffs.

Anti-Microbial Properties of Edible Plastic

Known for their antimicrobial properties, oregano and clove oils were tested at the Federal University of Vicose, Brazil. Researchers in the Food technology department there had identified the need for non-toxic food preservation and they found synergy with these oils and food packaging solutions.

By mixing the oils slowly and by using ultra-sonification processes, they were able to create emulsions which, when added to methylcellulose – an edible fibre – created sheets of essential oil film that we can ingest. Not only are these sheets chemical-free, non-toxic, and therefore edible, but these researchers discovered that bread which contained no preservatives stayed fresher for longer. Yeast and mold development was considerably slower. The essential oil infusions were even more effective than calcium propionate, the compound most often used to preserve food products such as bread.

Taking Personal Responsibility

Naturally, we think this is fantastic news and one tiny step forward since we cannot continue to use toxic plastic products and packaging. Apart from the fact that these plastics are not biodegradable and contribute to landfill, ocean degradation, wildlife decimation and general trashing of our planet, chemicals from plastics can seep into the food we eat and poison us.  A plethora of health issues have been associated with plastic packaging of foodstuffs. The first line of defense, of course, is to minimize our consumption of plastics and packaging. Buy local and use the fresh food markets – say no to plastic bags, stop eating processed foods (which are oftentimes wrapped in plastic), grow your own, and swap within your community.

Future food preservation techniques with this kind of edible packaging is indeed just one way forward and is by no means a stand-alone solution;  taking personal responsibility is key.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have other solutions?

We’d love to hear from you!

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