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Casein Casings: The Newest Food Packaging

Casein is a milk protein that is 500 times as effective as plastic at preventing food spoilage.

The USDA researchers added water and citrus pectin to casein powder to create the new wrapping material.

When roaming the aisles of the grocery, it’s easy to wonder if there’s more plastic in the store than food.

USDA researchers have come up with a new wrapping that’s edible and biodegradable, made from milk.

Well, not milk exactly, but casein, a protein found in milk. The researchers added glycerol, water and citrus pectin to casein powder to create the new product.

Turns out casein is better at protecting your food, too. It’s almost 500 times as effective as plastic at preventing spoilage, because proteins like casein form a tighter network when polymerized. Because it’s also less sensitive to light, casein is more effective than edible wrappers made from starch.

While you could just peel off the casein wrapper and eat it, you probably won’t have to. It will likely come in the form of a dissolving packet that actually adds protein to your meal. It may also appear in cereals as a sugar-free crunch preserver, or in pizza boxes as a lining alternative to now-banned perfluorinated chemicals.

The study’s principal investigator, Laetitia Bonnaillie, told Bloomberg it may be many years before USDA researchers make casein wrapping available, unless private companies try to find their own applications for it.

Read More:

  • Milk, Not Plastic, Will Protect Food in the Future (Bloomberg)
  • David Edwards’s WikiCell Makes Edible Food Packaging (Bloomberg)
  • The USDA Is Working On A New Type Of Sustainable Food Packaging (ThinkProgress)
Taylor Killough

Taylor Killough has degrees anthropology and journalism. She has worked with the oral history project StoryCorps. A nomad at heart, she recently returned to Louisville, Kentucky, where's she's excited to have her own kitchen and garden again.

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