Whilst developing biodegradable food packaging, the EU-funded project YPACK has discovered that integrating zinc oxide and oregano essential oil helps biopapers protect against bacterial contamination in food packaging. This promises to increase the shelf life of fresh products such as meat, fruit, vegetables and fresh pasta.
Zinc oxide and oregano essential oil are compounds that have good antimicrobial activity against two prominent bacteria renowned for causing food poisoning – Staphylococcus and Escherichia coli.
The YPACK team discovered an optimal ratio of the active ingredients that showed successful short-term (15 days) and medium-term (up to 48 days) antibacterial effects in ‘open’ and ‘closed’ systems for food products where the packaging is opened and closed several times, for example ham slices or bread. The active components could be used in both trays and flow films as an active layer.
Plastic pollution, including single-use plastic food packaging, is a major environmental concern with millions of tons of plastic waste ending up in our oceans. The ongoing work of YPACK to develop its innovative biodegradable food packaging, that also has the added bonus of helping to preserve food for longer, offers a tantalising – and practical – solution to the challenge.