They are obtained from some food wrappers that fulfill an additional function to the packaging. Researchers from the Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON) have developed active packaging that will allow food to be preserved up to 50 percent longer, thanks to its antioxidant effect.
Active packaging is the name for some food packaging that fulfills some additional packaging function. The products designed in ITSON serve as antioxidants and enable longer storage of products subject to oxidation.
With this technology, foods containing a high level of lipids (fats) are protected from environmental factors that cause their decomposition, such as light, oxygen or temperature.
dr. Jaime López Cervantes, ITSON researcher and project manager, explained that the packaging is currently designed for food products such as pizzas and cheeses (in the form of wax coatings that cover the food), although he added that the envelopes could be implemented in a wide variety of products.
Another possibility enabled by active packaging is the avoidance of microbial contamination: “In our laboratories, we have developed antimicrobial active packaging and these have been successfully tested on some types of partially cooked fish,” said Dr. López Cervantes.
An ITSON researcher explained that these containers not only benefit food in terms of domestic consumption, but are potentially useful in international markets: “For example, exporting tomatoes is difficult because the fruit only lasts a few days before spoiling. But with active packaging, it is possible to extend the storage time up to 10 days, which facilitates transport and sale.”
In order to materialize the active packaging, Dr. Jaime López Cervantes investigated the effects of two components found in crayfish. On the one hand, astaxanthin, a natural pigment with high antioxidant potential (the component responsible for the reddish color that cancer acquires when cooked).
Chitin (the molecule responsible for the rigidity of the shrimp shell) was also used. This component is a precursor to a compound called chitosan, which acts as a powerful antimicrobial agent.
The researcher explained that the biotechnological process that leads to these components consists of the fermentation of shrimp heads (which are otherwise discarded). This process results in a physical separation of the components in two stages: first, the lipids are treated to obtain astaxanthin; After that, there is a solid phase in which chitin is extracted.
Waste from the crab industry is used in this way, as it is estimated that the discarded heads represent 35 percent of the total weight of the crab. According to some calculations, shrimp waste in the state of Sonora is about 27 thousand tons per year.
This project is supported by the International Cooperation Fund of the National Science and Technology Council and is currently being developed together with researchers in Spain and Portugal.
Source: Political file