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Packaging Food That's Edible

Packaging food is a whole industry. Wouldn't it be great to buy food and get an edible wrapper? You may be asking why would you want that. Have you checked out your garbage lately? It's probably full of plastics and other man-made packaging that filld our landfills and takes "forever' to finally disintegrate.

In 2010, the US created more than 75 million tons that hit our landfills from food, drink, and packaging waste with the UK producing about 6.6 metric tons. Why put apples in a plastic bag, shrink-wrap corn on the cob, or wrap squash in two layers of plastic wrap in a plastic tray?

Landfill Full

Even though I bring my own cloth bags to the local grocery, I will seperate the tomatoes (that aren't wrapped) into a clear plastic bag. What was I thinking! The idea of packaging food in edible wraps isn't especially a new concept.

Would You Eat the Package?

WikiCells and Monosol are two ideas where the food packaging is either edible or dissolves in your faucet. These "packages" would hold soup, hot chocolate, ice cream, yogurt—almost anything. The membrane itself is made of food particles—say, cheese or dried fruit that imitates naturally found "bottles". Grapes have their own skin and we eat that!

While it seems strange to watch the film dissolve and then eat it, we actually consume polymers all the time—they coat pharmaceutical pills and are used in breath strips, for instance.

Would you eat the package if everyone in the food chain has handled it? That would require a secondary "package". Some ideas use an outside shell that composts making the total product more environmentally friendly.

A British company is creating a spray-on, edible, protective film that could

reduce waste from fresh meat packaging. The company says it could increase shelf life, reduce waste, and do away with oil-based plastic vacuum packs. How about a tomato based container?

When may we see these products? 2013 may be the year that you see these new ideas promoted.

Don't Rush Out to Buy Edible Packaging

Green Apples

There are some very important reasons why it's taken so long for the R&D departments to flood the market with new packaging for food.

     1. Difficulty in making the products cheap and safe

     2. Difficulty in making them tasty

     3. With food scarcity, do we want to divert food to packaging

     4. Are people ready to go that far outside the box

Crossing the psychological barrier to eating the box will be difficult no matter how yummy they tell us.

Maybe a step in between would be less packaging and bio-degradable or re-cycled. Somehow, drinking milk, then eating the package doesn't sound yummy.

We may find WikiCells in restaurants before supermarkets. Will you eat the package and all? Maybe - think taco salad bowls or soup in bread bowls.

In 2003, a wonderful new edible vegetable and fruit wrap was proclaimed the next new thing for keeping lunch sandwiches fresher with bio-degradable wraps. I'm sure it's a staple on your grocery list! No? Well, change is difficult.


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