Edible fruit and veg coating could cut waste and boost shelf life

Researchers in Switzerland have developed an eco-friendly packaging solution that keeps bananas fresh for longer

Published: Jan 13, 2022 07:02:20 PM IST

Researchers in Switzerland have developed an eco-friendly packaging solution that keeps bananas fresh for longer.
Image: Mady70 / Shutterstock

From cucumbers and carrots to zucchinis and bananas, France has now banned plastic wrapping on some 30 types of fruit and vegetables in a bid to reduce waste. In Switzerland, meanwhile, an alternative solution has been developed in the form of a natural packaging material that also happens to be edible!

Soon, consumers will be testing an eco-friendly alternative to plastic fruit and vegetable packaging in Lidl stores. The Swiss subsidiary of the retailer has collaborated with researchers from one of Switzerland's largest laboratories, the EMPA, to develop an eco-friendly wrapping that customers could even eat!

This natural coating is made from pomace, the leftovers obtained after juice is extracted from fruit and vegetables. The Swiss press reports that it took a year of research to develop this concept, which was first tested on bananas. When stored in a refrigerator, the skin of the fruit darkens very quickly. This is why bananas have often been wrapped in plastic film. With this second skin developed by the researchers, the shelf life of bananas was able to be extended by more than a week.

The research is not yet complete, as scientists still have to decide how this eco-packaging can be used. For example, it could be sprayed on fruit. Alternatively, food could be covered by dipping it in the substance. More than 150 Lidl stores in Switzerland could one day use this protective cellulose layer. Moreover, this discovery opens up a whole field of possibilities, such as the injection of vitamins or minerals into this natural coating in order to boost the nutritional value of a fruit or vegetable item.

In Singapore, a laboratory has been working in a similar field to develop a packaging material that can eliminate bacteria that can settle on food. Using starch, thyme, citric acid and corn protein, the formula was able to keep strawberries fresh for an extra week.

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