Could 'Food Film' Help Potato Industry?

Published online: Aug 02, 2004 OSU
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Oregon State University researchers have developed a "food film" substance that can be used to coat foods to prevent spoiling and possibly be fortified with vitamins and minerals so the food and film together make a more nutritious fare.

This "super packaging" is the latest technology coming from Oregon State University's Department of Food Science and Technology.

The film combines two key ingredients: a fiber from shellfish (chitosan) and a protein from egg whites (lysozyme). Its discovery combines the ingenuity of two OSU researchers: Yanyun Zhao, a food technologist and specialist in value-added products, and Mark Daeschel, a microbiologist and specialist in food safety.

Working with postdoctoral research associate Su-il Park, Zhao and Daeschel began experimenting with ways to combine lysozyme and chitosan to create an anti-microbial food wrap. The product they have developed looks like familiar sandwich wrap, but delivers much more.

Because it is made entirely from food products, the wrap is edible. It's so thin that it doesn't interfere with the texture of the food it covers. It is made from powerful natural antimicrobials, so it keeps fresh food from spoiling.

A patent application has been filed for the technology, which has many potential applicaitions.

It can be used as a film to wrap food or as a spray or dip to coat foods. The film can be enriched with extra nutrients, such as vitamin E and calcium, to boost the nutritional value of the food.

As to whether the product will prove economically viable for use in commercial food production, there is no answer at this time. Chitosan is a key ingredient in crabshells and shrimp shells, the tough exoskeleton that serves as  protective armor. Already the scientists know that a protective coat can be used to prevent rot in fresh berries, other perishable fruit and other foods.

Zhao, Daeschel and Park will begin developing practical applications for their super food wrap. The possibilities extend to coatings for sliced fruits and vegetables that are highly perishable.