Active and intelligent packaging are two concepts that are transforming the way we think about packaged foods. Active packaging is a process in which active substances, such as antioxidants and antimicrobial agents, are incorporated into packaging materials to enhance the quality of the food and prolong its shelf life. These substances are either added during the processing of the packaging materials or included separately as sachets within the packaged product.
Active packaging has numerous benefits beyond simply protecting the food from its environment. For example, it can act as a flavor enhancer, microbial growth inhibitor, gas scavenger, and off-flavor absorber. This approach is particularly useful when active substances are regulated by authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority, and El Mercado Común del Sur.
Currently, most commercially available active packaging systems are based on petroleum-based materials such as high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate. However, there is a growing interest in the use of bio-based materials, such as chitosan, polylactic acid (PLA), and starches, due to their sustainability and biodegradability. Starch, in particular, is a promising option for active packaging due to its availability, low cost, non-toxicity, and lack of flavor transfer.
Research has shown that various types of starches, including cassava, corn, sago, and tamarind, have been investigated for active packaging applications. Among these starches, cassava is widely studied and has been used to incorporate active substances such as cinnamaldehyde, mango and acerola pulps, yerba mate extract, nisin, and potassium sorbate. These active substances have been shown to significantly improve the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of starch-based active packaging materials.
In one study, palm oil packed in cassava-based starch film without active substances showed significantly lower peroxide index than low-density polyethylene film. This suggests that native cassava starch may have antioxidative barrier properties against lipid oxidation. In another study, cinnamaldehyde-cassava starch-based active packaging was developed using supercritical fluid technology, resulting in a significant reduction in water vapor permeability in comparison with similar packaging materials without cinnamaldehyde.
In addition to active packaging, there is also a growing interest in intelligent packaging. Intelligent packaging is a packaging system that has the capability to carry out intelligent functions such as detecting, sensing, recording, tracing, and communicating with consumers and surrounding environments. For example, intelligent packaging can be used to monitor the temperature and freshness of packaged foods and provide consumers with information about the origin and quality of the product.
Overall, active and intelligent packaging are revolutionizing the way we think about packaged foods. By incorporating active substances into packaging materials and developing intelligent packaging systems, we can enhance the quality and safety of packaged foods, prolong their shelf life, and provide consumers with valuable information about the products they consume. As we continue to explore new materials and technologies, the possibilities for active and intelligent packaging are endless.