An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Sustainable and Active Packaging for Food Product Safety and Stability


The proposed project will involve three main areas of research, culminating in work related to sustainable packaging and development of packaging systems and materials to improve food safety and quality. <P>Objective 1 will focus on establishing needs for packaging materials for current bio-based materials and to be used to develop transgenic plants in the future to produce sustainable packaging materials for foods. A coordinated, multidisciplinary effort will be implemented to develop property criteria, define the molecular structure required to achieve the criteria, ultimately create a genetically altered plant to produce molecules with the desired structure for the future, grow the material, harvest, produce, test with a food system and determine its optimal end of life scenario.

Objective 2 will involve studying the effects of bio-based materials produced from transgenic plants and other bio-based packaging materials on foods and the environment. Since foods require very specific criteria for their protection during packaging and distribution, replacement of traditional materials with bio-based materials requires careful examination. Little is known about how these new materials interact with foods and food components, how they hold up under distribution conditions and how they affect the foods themselves. It is possible some foods may need to be reformulated to fit the changes in packaging systems that are developed.

Objective 3 will determine the ability of various bio-based polymers to deliver active packaging components such as antimicrobials, antioxidants, nutrients, aroma or other components to be determined as needed. This basic technology is already being studied in our laboratories at Clemson University and some systems have been found to be effective. However, more work needs to be done to make the materials more production capable, control release over time and determine their effect on the food and environment. Overall, the research involves development, testing and implementation of bio-based polymers that can be commercially implemented as sustainable materials.

More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Biopolymers are being examined as part of the solution to sustainable environmental problems, however, there are issues that need to be solved to make the solutions commercially viable. The purpose of this project is to take a multidisciplinary, total systems approach to examine the use of biopolymers as sustainable food packaging materials for delivery of safe and high quality foods. <P> APPROACH: Objective 1 - Establishing needs for packaging materials to be developed using current bio-based materials and for future development of transgenic plants to prdouce sustainable packaging materials for foods. A complete review of literature will be used to identify shortcomings and issues related to material production, physical properties and end-of-life scenarios for current bio-based materials. A list of targeted needs for better utilization of bio-based materials based on food packaging scenarios will be developed. A multidisciplinary team will need to be formed to discuss these needs and how each team member can address issues related to their areas of expertise. A specific experimental design will be developed by the team, therefore, only known portions that are likely to be incorporated by the team as well as procedures already used in our laboratories will be discussed in this portion of the proposal. ASTM standards D5338-98, D6003-96, D6954-04, D6400 and D6002-96 will be used to assess compostability specific to plastic materials. This work can be performed on a laboratory scale and a compost is available at the Agricultural Service Laboratory. Film formation methods will initially be used based on previous work performed in our laboratory. <P>Objective 2 - Effects of bio-based packaging materials on foods and the environment. Bio-based materials during the first phase of this project as well as currently researched bio-based materials will be used to determine capability with foods as well as their effect on end-of-life scenarios. Specific food categories will be selected to perform food compatibility testing. For example, low acid, neutral, high acid, low alcoholic, high alcoholic and fatty foods can be simulated using model solutions referred to as food simulates. Methods for compatibility testing will include use of food simulates, analysis using gas chromatography combined with a mass spectrophotometer (MS) with a sniffer port and high performance liquid chromatography coupled with MS. After food compatibility testing is completed with food simulates, shelf life testing to include sensory analysis will also be used to determine what effects the bio-based materials have on flavor, aroma, texture and acceptability characteristics of foods representing the food simulates used in the compatibility testing. <P>Objective 3 - Further development of bio-based polymers as active packaging food packaging materials. Test methods for measuring the antimicrobial properties of chitosan, corn zein/nisin films, methyl cellulose/nisin, methyl cellulose/nisin/rosemary coating blends as well as commercially produced films impregnated with benzoic acid and sorbic acid have been tested for inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes in our laboratory. These techniques will be used and further developed to continue to determine whether bio-based films are useful as active packaging materials as well as determination of how to produce the materials in a commercial setting. In addition to antimicrobial delivery, these films may be used to deliver nutraceuticals, antioxidants and flavor/aroma compounds to improve food safety and quality.

Cooksey, Kay
Clemson University
Start date
End date
Project number
Accession number