Indian researchers increase tomato shelf life

Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have been successful in keeping tomatoes fresh and without any microbial spoilage for as long as 30 days. This was possible thanks to the food packaging material developed by a two-member team led by Dr. Mudrika Khandelwal from the institute’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering. The food packaging material is made of bacterial cellulose impregnated with silver nanoparticles.

Bacterial cellulose was first prepared by using Gluconacetobacter xylinus bacteria to produce semicrystalline cellulose nanofibre from a standard glucose media. “We can use any fruit juice that is rich in sugar or even beer and wine, which are fermented, to produce bacterial cellulose,” says Dr. Khandelwal.

At room conditions, tomatoes wrapped in the composite remained fresh without any wrinkles or microbial spoilage even at the end of 30 days.

“This is because besides antimicrobial activity, the composite also allows appropriate exchange of gases and moisture. The water holding capacity of the composite helps maintain optimum moisture transmission,” says Shivakalyani Adepu from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering at IIT Hyderabad and first author of the paper. “The composite also acts as ethylene blocker thus preventing excess ripening of fruits. It ensures that fruits age slowly.”

On the contrary, tomatoes wrapped with polyethylene started wrinkling within the first week, and microbial spoilage was seen within 15 days; tomatoes had completely deteriorated within 30 days. But in the case of polypropylene, tomatoes remained fresh for a week; they started wrinkling within 15 days and became soft and wrinkled all around within a month.

Read more at The Hindu (R. Prasad)

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