Edible food packaging based on the milk protein casein will be on store shelves within three years, according to USDA researcher Peggy Tomasula.
Tomasula and her team have already been creating prototype films that could be used to cover foods such as meat and bread. The films look similar to plastic wrap, but are less stretchy. They are also edible, and the researchers plan on first testing their use in single-serve food applications, such as individually wrapped cheese sticks.
Starch-based packaging is already on the market, although these tend to be more porous, leaving food more susceptible to spoilage. USDA’s casein-based films are also 500-times better than petroleum-based plastics at keeping out oxygen.
“When used in packaging, [the protein-based films] could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain,” Tomasula says in a statement.