Say good-bye to plastic wraps and hello to protein-based film.
There’s nothing better than taking a big slice out of a block of cheese and eating it—with the wrapping still on. That's right, edible wrapping.
It may not be the norm today, but in the future this sort of packaging may be pretty common thanks to work being done by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who are developing an environmentally-friendly film made of the milk protein casein.
An article from the American Chemical Society notes that plastic packaging is not great at preventing food spoilage, not to mention it does not degrade, which creates landfills of plastic waste. But the protein-based alternative scientists are developing is 500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food and, because it comes from milk, it is biodegradable, sustainable, and yes, even edible.
Some of the edible applications—besides my beloved block of cheese—include individually wrapped cheese (I sense a theme here), as well as soup packets or anything in a single-serve pouch. Casein protein coatings could also be sprayed on cereal (instead of sugar) to keep its crunch in milk, or could be sprayed on pizza to keep the grease from staining food boxes. In addition, nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be included, or flavoring could be added.
The food applications are endless. But it could take some getting used to, as it’s a big change in our eating habits. Psychologically, I’m not sure I’m ready to bite through the wrapper to get to my cheese. More importantly, how will it pair with my wine?