Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed an eco-friendly food packaging material made from grapefruit seed extract and chitosan, a natural polymer found in crustacean shells. The composite film took Associate Professor Thian Eng San and Ph.D. student Ms. Tan Yi Min three years to perfect.
According to the researchers, chitosan possesses several useful properties for food packaging, such as biocompatibility, non-toxicity, short-time biodegradability and excellent film forming ability. Additionally, grapefruit seed extract is known to be germicidal, anti-bacterial, fungicidal and anti-viral.
Experiments showed that bread samples packaged in the chitosan material stayed fresh twice as long as those wrapped in synthetic packaging films.
“Increasing attention has been placed on the development of food packaging material with anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties in order to improve food safety, extend shelf-life and to minimize the use of chemical preservatives. Consumers are also demanding that packaging materials be formulated from natural materials that are environmentally-friendly and biodegradable while improving food preservation. This novel food packaging material that we have developed has the potential to be a useful material in food technology.”
The researchers plan to conduct an additional shelf-life study to examine the effects of the composite film on various food products.
Several recent studies have explored crustacean shells’ role in packaging materials. Last year, the Technological Institute of Plastic and AINIA Technological Centre launched an initiative to create a new cosmetics package made out of nanomaterials, including molecules derived from crustacean shells. Another study from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country supported chitosan as an eco-friendly food packaging substitute for petroleum-based packaging.