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Novel packaging

Our lab is researching incorporating natural antimicrobials into sustainable packaging materials to extend protein shelf life.

Photo of Darryl Holliday
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Spoilage and pathogens are two leading concerns in food production. Spoilage accounts for an estimated total retail value of $165.6 billion per year in the US with meat, poultry, and fish accounting for 41%. The CDC reported that in 2013, over 19,000 cases of food borne infection were identified, 4,200 leading to hospitalization and 80 resulting in death. Black seed (Nigella sativa) has shown potential antimicrobial properties but, its flavor can be undesirable. Therefore, incorporating it into packaging can deliver its antimicrobial activity. The objective was to determine the impact of black seed oil (BSO) on the growth of spoilage and food-borne pathogens when incorporated into bioplastic film. Corn, rice, and potato starches were used to make bioplastic trays. RVA was performed on each starch to identify its thermal breakdown. The bioplastic films were made using 90g starch, 180ml water, 6ml glacial acetic acid, 9ml glycerol, and 300ppm BSO in the test samples. The components were esterified under agitation until reaching 62°C and dried. Samples of beef, chicken, and shrimpwere inoculated with Escherichia coli K12, Staphylococcus edpidermidis, or Pseudomonas putida respectively. Each protein was placedonto the film, covered, and refrigerated at 5°C for 7 days before measuring total bacterialload through ATP swabs and plate culture. When comparing RVA values, potato starch showed the quickest peak time but highest thermal breakdown. Corn starch had the slowest peak time and least thermal breakdown. The BSO varied in efficacy depending on the microorganism and the bioplastic substrate. This information is aimed at reducing food waste from spoilage and pathogens. Additionally, the use of bioplastic trays system can reduce overall environmental impact. The anticipated cost increase of the antimicrobial bioplastic storage trays can be justified by the increased safety and extended shelf life of costly, highly perishable proteins for food service and retail outlets.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Over 60% of food wasted, is wasted at the manufacturing and retail levels, by targeting this segment, we feel to make the greatest difference in food waste.

Tell us about your work experience:

Our ongoing research has been presented at numerous food conferences and has drawn a tremendous amount of interest and support from both academia and industry.

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Photo of Lynn Huang

I wish I knew more about science to help you out with this. I applaud your efforts with this. My suggestion may be to look at the process again for the manufacturing and retail storage methods. If 60% of food is wasted at these levels, what human factors/behaviors contribute to this and what can we help do in addition to the packaging to decrease the waste percentage?

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