Innovation That Matters

Strawberries kept in the smart film lasted three days longer than a control group | Photo source Nanyang Technological University

Produce stays fresh longer with smart, antimicrobial food packaging

Food & Drink

The smart wrapping releases natural compounds capable of killing E.Coli and various fungi

Spotted: A team of scientists working on sustainable nanotechnology recently created a smart packaging solution that keeps meat and fruit fresh for longer. Developed by researchers at the NTU (Nanyang Technological University Singapore)-Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Initiative for Sustainable Nanotechnology (NTU-Harvard SusNano), the packaging is made from non-toxic, naturally-occurring materials that are also biodegradable.

Made from starch, corn protein, thyme and citric acid, among other materials, the packaging responds to the presence of additional humidity or enzymes that indicate that produce is ripening. When the fibres in the packaging sense harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and Listeria forming, they release microscopic amounts of antimicrobial compounds that help prevent the contamination of the produce.

In lab tests, strawberries wrapped in the new packaging stayed mould-free for seven days, while fruit kept in the traditional plastic boxes stayed fresh for only four days. Further advancement of the design is part of the collaboration’s strategic goal of promoting sustainable food technology for long-term use.  

Sustainable packaging is attracting the attention of innovators of all kinds, from Icelandic designer Valdís Steinarsdóttir’s bioplastic made from discarded animal hides, to US-based Hazel Technologies’ sachets of preservatives that moderate the air around fresh produce.

Written by: Keely Khoury

Email: info.healthtech@ntu.edu.sg

Website: ntu.edu.sg

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