More Food for Thought

A few months ago the column in this space addressed the use of edible wraps. It discussed a new edible film made at the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture in Albany, CA.

The film comes from a puree of fruits and vegetables that is fried and formed into a thin sheet of opaque film.

A subsequent column reported on the correspondence received from readers who very graphically expressed their reluctance to eat such a material. They feared consuming something that might be contaminated.

Another column on this same subject is appropriate now. The other side has spoken. One correspondent expressed very strong sentiments. “I think the negative responses to the prospects of edible films are as Neanderthal as the attitudes toward nuclear power, turbine cars, the Corvair, and cloning,” he wrote. He exhorted people to open their minds to the useful possibilities. “The film could be used as an internal wrapper to preserve the rest of the package once it was opened and partially used,” he said. “The wrapper could separate different flavors to avoid cross contamination in the same container. It could be used as a separator for sticky products such as paper is used between cheese slices.”

This person reacted to the negativity expressed in the earlier column by noting that “negative thinking stifles creativity. With that kind of thinking we will never solve life's really difficult problems.”

Another correspondent wrote that the idea of edible packaging is a “reviving solution” to environmental concerns and waste pollution. She envisions “a great future for such products.”

In thinking about the possibilities, she decided that “you can almost compare products in edible packaging to other products that we buy without any protection. For example, consider fruits and vegetables. We simply need to be more careful in preparing and cooking them. It might not work for all the products — chips might get a little mushy, but it could be a start.”

Thanks to these writers and everyone who expressed positive feelings for the use of edible packaging. This idea is only one of many that researchers are pursuing in their efforts to improve packaging as we know it today and to ensure it has a positive influence on our environment. Packaging of all sorts is a common factor in our lives. It has grown and changed during the last six decades or so. It will grow and change in the future at more rapid rates. That is progress.

As we experience company mergers and consolidations, down-sizing and elimination of jobs, and all the other factors that accompany organizations and their employees trying to work harder and smarter, we must be willing to adopt the possibility of edible packaging or any new idea.

Change of any type can be inconvenient or even frightening. Since new ideas usually require changes, we often have a natural tendency to rebel against them. Dismissing new ideas for such a reason is a defeatist attitude that will retard and impede progress — yours and that of your employer.

Having finished writing this final column on edible packaging, I need to think of a topic for next time. While I think, perhaps eating something would enhance my creative process. What would be a suitable accompaniment? Cherries freshly picked from the trees in my yard would be a healthy choice requiring no packaging whatsoever!

David J. Bentley Jr. is a recognized industry expert in polymers, laminations, and coatings with more than 30 years of experience in R&D and technical service. Contact him at dbentley@unm.edu.


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