In an article published on August 22, 2016 by news provider Bloomberg, journalist Amrith Ramkuma reports on an edible, biodegradable packaging film made from the milk protein casein. The protein-based film was developed by researchers Peggy Tomasula and colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The researchers presented their work on August 21, 2016 at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.. The casein-based film is up to 500 times better than conventional plastics at keeping oxygen away from food “because proteins form a tighter network when they polymerize,” Ramkuma explains. Also, the film is biodegradable and edible. The researchers added glycerol and citrus pectin to make the casein-film softer and more resistant to humidity and high temperatures. Further additives such as vitamins, probiotics, nutraceuticals, or flavorings could be included in the film in the future. Potential applications include single-serve, edible food wrappers or pouches, e.g. for cheese sticks or dried coffee and soup. However, because the casein-film dissolves in water and for sanitary reasons, the single-serve wrappers and pouches would need to be packaged in larger plastic or board containers to keep them dry and clean. Further applications could include spray-on food coatings (e.g. for cereal flakes or bars), linings for pizza and other food boxes to make them grease- and stain-proof, as well as laminates in paper and board packaging or plastic pouches.
Amrith Ramkuma (August 22, 2016). “Milk, not plastic, will protect food in the future.” Bloomberg
ACS (August 21, 2016). “Edible food packaging made from milk proteins (video).”