Stories tagged Food film

Sep
05
2007

Safer strawberries: Yanyun Zhao, a food technologist at Oregon State University, coats fresh strawberries with a new antimicrobial film that keeps mold away and keeps the berries ripe longer. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)
Safer strawberries: Yanyun Zhao, a food technologist at Oregon State University, coats fresh strawberries with a new antimicrobial film that keeps mold away and keeps the berries ripe longer. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)
We’ve all done it. That leftover food gets wrapped up in tight-fitting plastic wrap to be safely stored in the fridge to be eaten another day.

But what if we wrapped up our food before it was even cooked the first time?

Researchers are working with the concept right now, finding ways to use natural-occurring germ and disease fighters into thin films and powders that could coat our foods before they get to our dinner table. If they’re successful, we could have safe materials coating our foods that could keep them safe from E. coli, salmonella or other food-borne health problems.

Here’s just one idea: strawberries could be coated with a soup-like material made from egg proteins and shrimp shells. That coating would deflect molds from growing on the berries and leave them to be riper for a longer period of time. Likewise, a film made up of a weave of thyme derivatives – which can kill E. coli – could be used in the lining of spinach bags, ending the health alerts like we’ve recently heard about for that vegetable.

Film for food: A continuous biodegradable protein film begins to form using the new ARS film-making process. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Film for food: A continuous biodegradable protein film begins to form using the new ARS film-making process. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture)
The films are made from a variety of natural products that will dissolve in water. And in some cases, they can even be manipulated to carry flavors, although the big push is to make them flavorless so that the coated food’s natural flavor comes through.

To most researchers’ knowledge, none of these new coatings is being used in food products being offered in our stores today. But they’re coming fast. Patents have been applied for and business agreements are being drawn up with food companies to start using this new concept.

Have you ever tried one of those new breath-freshening strips or cough drop film? They look like a piece of tapes, you pop them in your mouth and they quickly dissolve to carry their payload into your mouth. These new food films are just like that. In fact, researchers say consumers should be much more likely to embrace this idea if they’ve tried those products already on the market.

It’s not a radical new idea as it might sound. Wax has been used as a coating on apples and aspirin for a long time. Some frozen pizzas have a thin layer on film over their crusts to keep the pizza sauce from seeping into it before the pizza is cooked.

So what do you think? Would you eat food with thin film on it if you knew it would be safer food? I think this is pretty much a no-brainer “yes” to me. Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.