Imagine walking into a grocery store where everything is wrapped in edible skins, with no other packaging. You would be able to eat your ice cream or protein bar right off the shelf, its package or wrapper included! Think biodegradable skins and shells like those of fruits (coconuts, bananas, apples, etc.). Would you be afraid of germs? Would it make you nervous to eat the package, as well as the food product within, wondering what this “edible” package is comprised of? While edible packaging innovations are on the rise, countless uncertainties prevent consumers from being willing to give these new products a try.
Yet edible packaging may provide more sustainable products and a way to help the environment and limit landfill waste from packaging. Advances in food packaging technology could make food storage and preparation simpler, meanwhile curbing food and packaging waste, and reducing the leaching of chemicals from packaging into food. It doesn’t make sense that a food item consumed within minutes or seconds leaves behind a piece of packaging that lasts for years in Earth’s landfills.
How would it feel if the food you bought at the market would come in packaging that could be eaten too? These edible sachets(packages) would neither generate plastic waste nor require it to be thrown in the trash. Scientists in Visakhapatnam are currently working on this very paradigm of food packaging, which could potentially make the food industry zero-waste and ecologically sustainable in the long run.
The Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (ICAR-CIFT) in Visakhapatnam is carrying out research on seaweed or macroalgae and has recently developed edible, biodegradable films and sachets from seaweed. After fine-tuning the technology, CIFT plans to partner with firms for the commercial production of edible biopolymers for use in the food industry.
Jesmi Debbarma, a researcher on seaweed at CIFT, said, “We used dried, powdered seaweed and added sodium alginate or polysaccharide extracted from seaweed along with a minute quantity of natural plasticizer to prepare the edible and functional seaweed film. Red seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii) and local green seaweed (Ulva sp) have been used”.
“Seaweed based edible and functional film has good sealing, antioxidant properties and can be used as novel eco-friendly packaging material in the food industry as a sachet, pouch or bag for seasoning powder for instant noodles, instant coffee and tea and can replace the aluminum foil and plastic packaging that is currently being used,” added scientist Debbarma.
CIFT-Vizag principal scientist and scientist-in-charge R Raghu Prakash said,“Since seaweeds are not a popular item for direct consumption in India, we at ICAR-CIFT, we have developed alternatives such as fortification in fish seaweed sausage, seaweed cookies, and seaweed-based health drinks".
So Would you buy this when they are out? Also, would you eat the Package after you eat the contents? Do let us know in the Comments Below!