A project at the University of Bologna was completed at the end of 2015 together with the non-profit consortium Bestack which culminated in the creation of packaging that extends the self-life of foodstuffs
Innovations will soon be available for all producers of fresh fruit and vegetables
Experts at the University of Bologna together with Bestack, the non-profit consortium that brings together all parties involved in the production of corrugated cardboard packaging, have devised a process for preserving fruit and vegetables once they have joined the distribution chain. This means that cardboard packaging can be made using natural substances at the same time as counteracting the degradation effects of microorganisms on fresh produce, thereby extending their shelf-life.
More specifically, this research – that took 4 years – has brought about the creation of brand new packaging that includes antimicrobial substances on its surfaces. This solution offers numerous advantages, not only in terms of logistics and the environment. It is now possible to supply consumers with produce that has ripened more and is consequently better.
“These are natural substances,” said Rosalba Lanciotti of the Agro-Food Science and Technology Department who supervised the research project, “such as components of essential oils which may also be included in food and are permitted in the EU, the USA and Japan. These substances are able to inhibit the development of micro-organisms, be they pathogens or deterioration agents. This helps improve food safety and shelf-life alike, with beneficial effects for the entire supply chain.”
In the first stage of the study, researchers focused on innovative aspects of corrugated cardboard production and in particular on the definition of natural anti-mould compounds with variable quantities and concentrations for inclusion in packaging materials. The effects on packaged fruit were then analysed in the laboratory and the persistence of these benefits over time. The second stage applied the study to an actual case study, with the creation of samples of this innovative packaging and their use for packaging by one of the leading fresh fruit and vegetable producers in Italy.
At the end of 2015, research activity obtained a specific patent. The closing stage will involve verification of the results achieved in a full-scale logistics chain in collaboration with major food distribution companies.