During trials, cauliflower and broccoli - which can deteriorate after just one day on the shelves - was still in good condition after five days when packaged in Sira-Flex Resolve, Sirane’s corn-based film, says the firm.
Sirane marketing executive Mark Lingard said that brassicas were particularly difficult to package as they had a shorter shelf-life than many other vegetables, especially because they are often cut into florets before sale.
Vegetable 'panic mode'
“When this happens they start to respire much more quickly and you get the browning effect faster, particularly at the ends where it has been cut,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“When the vegetable is cut it effectively goes into ‘panic mode’ and just like a person, breathes more heavily. It is this ‘breathing’ that causes the degredation and the browning," he added.
The Sira-Flex Resolve bio-based film controls the breathing and stops the vegetable ‘panicking’ by balancing the CO2 and O2 levels of oxygen within the pack, as well as keeping the right moisture vapour humidity, he said.
“Low oxygen can cause the growth of some nasty bacteria which degrade the food very quickly, and can be dangerous in some cases, [while] excess CO2 can increase the acidity of the food which affects the taste and texture of the food,” Lingard said.
The ideal atmosphere was about 15% CO2 and 15% O2, he added.
Sirane said that the unique structure of the film material meant that its permeability to humidity, O2 and CO2 varied in each case. The permeability is temperature dependant so that the optimum atmosphere is maintained inside the pack even if the storage temperature is variable, the firm said.
Shelf-life extension holy grail
Sirance also claims that the technology could help reduce food waste.
“Shelf-life extension is the holy grail for the fruit and vegetable industry,” managing director Simon Balderson said in a statement. “A huge amount of food is wasted because it goes off before it is eaten. Using this film could reduce the amount of food waste and significantly reduce costs.”
In 2011, the European Commission said that optimising food packaging without compromising safety was a key component of the plan to slash the 89m tonnes of food waste each year: the equivalent of 179kg per person.
The EC estimates that 42% of total food waste is caused by households, food manufacturers account for 39%, retailers for 5% and the catering sector 14%. Brussels has warned that if nothing is done the mountain of food waste could balloon to 126m tonnes by the end of the decade.
Sirane's new film is on sale worldwide and the firm anticipates strong sales in world region with hot climates and where food is transported by road. The company is already supplying a major retailer in Australia and is about being operating in Turkey, Southern Africa and the Middle East, Lingard said.