For sustainable society


Silk coating for longer lasting freshness?

Anyone who has noticed that the product has expired has thrown it away at some point in their life. But what if there was an invention that could keep food fresh for longer? What if there was a product that could help reduce garbage and food waste?
Dreamlike idea soon may become a reality thanks to Mr. Marelli.

Cambridge Crops Company of the United States has announced a tasteless, odorless and edible coating technology that extends the life of fresh products. Instead of freezing and using plastic in order to prevent the product from drying or oxidizing, how about coating it with silk? A discovery was made by a coincidence. A coincidence that has the potential to replace plastic packaging.


An assistant professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Mr. Benedetto Marelli
Participated in a cooking contest held at the research facility. The requirement for the contest was to use silk for cooking. The results of the contest were uncertain, but Marelli said he had unintentionally left a strawberry that was dipped in silk on the bench for a week. Later, when the strawberry was supposed to be rotten, the strawberry dipped in silk looked fresh and was ready to eat.

At the time, Mr. Marelli was doing biomedical research on silk, and after his discovery started a research on how silk could help solving food waste problems.
In collaboration with several Boston-based scientists, he founded Cambridge Crops, Inc. to develop coating technology using silk-based ingredients. The same phenomenon has been confirmed with other ingredients besides strawberries, therefore they came to a conclusion that the expiration date of fresh foods such as meat and fish can be extended.

The silk coating technology can be easily integrated into existing food processing lines without the need for expensive capital investment or modification. Depending on the food, the expiration date has been extended by up to 200%.
Not only food waste can be reduced but also there is a high possibility of reducing greenhouse gases which are emitted by refrigerated vehicles that are used to carry plastic products and fresh food.

Up until now, there has been a lot of research done in order to provide the consumer with the fresh products for longer. However, research based on genetic engineering, plant engineering, mechanical engineering, AI, and computer science resulted in genetic modification and packaging materials that are harmful to the environment.
According to Marelli, the newly discovered silk-like nanomaterials and biomaterials can ease issues that the food industry is currently facing without changing the characteristics of the food itself. The idea of protecting the produce by the layer of organic substances instead of protecting it with something that isn’t disposable such as plastic seems to fit into the future much better and be more environmentally friendly.

Photo:Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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