Food packaging has been a continual challenge in the zero-waste movement. Some companies have made leaps and bounds to reduce packaging waste, while others are still in the dark. Purchasing local food right after it has been harvested is the best way to reduce the need for food packaging, but unfortunately, this isn’t a viable option for everyone, which is why edible food packaging is an interesting idea worthy of consideration. In the same instance, edible packaging needs to overcome some obstacles including regulatory requirements, technological concerns, consumer acceptance, field tests, etc. In 2009, the Division of Agriculture of the University of Arkansas as well as a California-based organic food company were working on developing edible films for foods. Essentially, the film would consist of a protein or starch base used to protect and preserve a wide range of foods and even prevent food-borne bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella from growing. However, obstacles not only included cost and safety regulations, but there were also other concerns including whether consumers would be on board with it and if the technology was up to par. More than a year later, where do we stand in the development of edible food packaging? While we may be closer, it is still perhaps a faraway realization. The concept of edible packaging has been talked about since the 1960s, but it would require the help of nanotechnology to be carried out successfully. This type of technology allows for matter to be manipulated on an atomic level, which could prevent the starch-based edible packaging from breaking down in water. With nanotechnology comes the concern for potential side effects, complications and more waste or pollution instead of less. How do you feel about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Maybe you would feel the same about nanotechnology. It has been more than 50 years since the bright bulb lit up on edible packaging, and it’s quite possible that it could be another 50 years until consumers see anything like it in stores. It’s not a matter of whether the technology exists; it’s a matter of whether this concept can be carried out in a safe and eco-friendly way.
Recycle Packaging? Why Not Eat It?
It has been more than 50 years since the conceptualization of edible packaging, and it could be another 50 years until consumers see anything like it in stores.