Hard cheeses packed in new biopolymers which will give them an extended shelf-life may be on the shelves in the near future. Substituting fossil plastic materials by renewable biopolymers may benefit the environment and at the same time improve the utilization of agricultural by-products.
According to the Centre for Advanced Food Studies in Denmark, the new biopolymers may be based on proteins like casein, on carbohydrates like starch, cellulose or chitosan, on lipids, and also on polymers from surplus monomers produced in agriculture such as polylactate (PLA), and finally, on bacterial produced polymers from microorganisms grown on waste, like poly 3-hydroxy-butyrate (PHB).
Participants in a new QLK project are dealing with these perspectives for the packaging of hard cheeses: they are developing a new proactive packaging material based on PLA, and are incorporating oxygen scavengers and preservatives encapsulated in cyclodextrins to reduce cheese oxidation (development of rancid taste) and surface growth of moulds. They expect to increase the hard cheese shelf-life from 2-3 months to 9 months, and to produce in pilot scale the new and competitive packaging materials. They also aim to demonstrate, through an environmental impact assessment, the economical and environmental benefits.
Some of the participants were also previously engaged in a completed FAIR Concerted Action, which reviewed the production and application of biobased packaging materials for the food industry. Results from the project are published at this link.