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Combine proteins, lipids to improve edible film barrier properties.

Edible films and coatings based on water-soluble proteins are often water-soluble themselves and exhibit excellent oxygen, lipid and flavor barrier properties. But they are poor moisture barriers.

Proteins act as a cohesive, structural matrix in multicomponent systems, yielding films and coatings with good mechanical properties. Lipids, on the other hand, act as good moisture barriers, but poor gas, lipid and flavor barriers. By combining proteins and lipids in emulsion or bilayer barriers, the advantages of each component can be exploited to form an improved film system.

Moreover, adding plasticizers improves the film's mechanical properties. It would be desirable to develop water-insoluble protein films. This would be the case even if they do not necessarily provide oxygen barriers.

Toward this end, USDA-ARS researchers have developed an edible, water-resistant composition that can be formed into films. It comprises a water-resistant solid composition of casein. The casein may be directly precipitated from a solution under high-pressure treatment with carbon dioxide. The composition does not have to be crosslinked, but takes advantage of the natural water insolubility of the protein backbone of the casein.

You could combine the casein with edible or inert flexibilizers to improve film properties. The film may be used to add moisture protection to foods. This technology is available for licensing. An invention disclosure was recently filed for this process. Scientists already are working with companies on utilizing the films in certain applications.

The film-making process involves using an initial pressure above the surface of the solution that is from about 400 pounds psi to 1800 pounds psi. If the pressure is increased to more than 2000 psi for an extended period of time, the resulting casein-based product tends to be water-soluble. The film may include micelles in its integral structure. The initial pressure in the vessel will usually be lower. The pressure may be increased at a desired rate.

The films can prevent moisture or fat migration and may be useful as a coating on dairy products or cheese. The material also could be used as a laminate in packaging systems for cottage cheese or yogurt. Flavorings, antimicrobials, vitamins, minerals and the like could be added to the films to extend their utility. The investigators also believe that the films may be useful as a biodegradable packaging material or to replace plastic bulk.

ARS scientists are developing a continuous process to produce large quantities of the films. Until now, edible protein films have been made by pouring protein solution on a flat plate or into a petri dish and letting it dry in air.

Patent. 6,379,726--Edible, water solubility-resistant casein masses. Issued April 30, 2002. Inventor: Peggy Tomasula. Assigned to USDA-ARS. An edible, water-resistant composition can be formed into shaped articles, including film. It comprises a water-resistant solid composition of casein. The casein may be directly precipitated from a solution under high-pressure treatment with carbon dioxide. The composition does not have to be crosslinked, but takes advantage of the natural water-insolubility of the protein backbone of the casein.

Further information. Peggy Tomasula, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038; phone: 215-233-6703; fax: 215-233-6795; email: ptomasula@errc.ars.usda.gov. Or Michael Kozempel, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038; phone: 215-233-6588; fax: 215-233-6795; email: mkozempel@errc.ars.usda.gov.
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:551
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