Edible protein coating on perishables as a solution for food waste

It is a sad truth that Americans waste approximately 290 pounds of food each year. That’s 20 percent of all the food on people’s plates – enough to feed 2 billion people.

Globally, that number goes over 1.3 billion tons of food every year. Countries like South Korea, however, are getting ahead of the problem and setting an example for the world to follow by recycling 95 percent of their food waste.

The World Economic Forum has listed a dozen other ways in which technology can help food systems avoid wastage. Some of these measures include consumption of alternative proteins, deploying food-sensing technologies for food safety and traceability.

Cambridge Crops, a start-up from Somerville, has another solution: A natural and edible coating made of protein that postpones decay of perishable food.

The edible biopolymer coating created by Cambridge Crops, a company based in Greentown Labs. The start-up is a collaboration between MIT and Tufts University and its product can postpone decay of perishable foods like fruits, vegetables and meat by reducing contact with gases and water vapor, thereby slowing down oxidation and water loss.

It works like this: The patented, all-natural, water-based solution is made of silk fibroin, a protein. The coating, which creates an invisible barrier that regulates the exchange of oxygen, water vapor and slows down microbial growth. The company will integrate its product at the production and processing level post-harvest. It can be applied to everything from fresh and cut produce to meat and even flowers.

Adam Behrens, co-founder and CEO of the company, explained that the glossy apples we see have a shelf life of two weeks once they hit supermarket shelves. Cambridge Crops’ edible coating can extend its shelf life by another two weeks.

Americaninno.com explains how the company, founded in 2016, currently runs paid pilots with producers. It plans to have an FDA-approved commercial product by the end of 2020.


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