An alternative method for producing food which does not contain preservatives, but which meets the same food safety standards, may be to incorporate antimicrobial agents such as natamycin in the packaging materials.
Current demands by consumers will undoubtedly determine the future of food packaging: first, because of the demand for minimally processed foods without preservatives, and second, due to the demand for environmentally friendly packaging materials.
To that end, biodegradable polymers from renewable resources can to a certain extent reduce food packaging waste. That is why recent studies have developed biologically based antimicrobial films with two antimicrobial agents: sodium benzoate and natamycin. These two agents can also form very solid films when combined with starch.
Methods for incorporation in films
Two methods of incorporation to produce starch-based films for food packaging have been studied.
The first – as mentioned above – is to incorporate antimicrobial agents directly into the starch matrix, and the second is to incorporate antimicrobial nanoparticle systems in the starch matrix.
When incorporating starch-based nanoparticle systems – in which several combinations are feasible, such as starch with sodium benzoate and starch with natamycin – studies show that the addition of antimicrobial agents has no harmful effect on the mechanical or barrier properties of the packaging. This means that it can be feasibly applied by the food industry as a new resource for completely biological and recyclable packaging.