IIT Guwahati Scientists Develop Biodegradable, Edible Coatings That Extends Shelf Life Of Fruits, Vegetables

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati researchers led by Professor Vimal Katiyar, Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Excellence in Sustainable Polymers (CoE-SusPol), have developed an edible coating to extend the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables.

The research team included Professor Vimal Katiyar and Professor Vaibhav V Goud, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati and CoE-SusPol, IIT Guwahati, along with their research scholars Ms Kona Mondal, Ms Tabli Ghosh, Ms Mandavi Goswami, Ms Shikha Sharma and Sonu Kumar.

This coating material which will prevent wastage was tested on vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, green chilli and strawberries, Khasi mandarin, apples, pineapples, and kiwifruits. And it was found to keep these vegetables fresh for nearly two months.

The IIT Guwahati researchers believe that their development could help the country meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 12.3 which is aimed at reducing food losses along the production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

Highlighting the need for such research, Professor Vimal Katiyar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, and CuSPol, IIT Guwahati, said, “According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, between 4.6 and 15.9 per cent of fruits and vegetables go waste post-harvest, partly due to poor storage conditions. In fact, post-harvest loss in certain produce items like potato, onion and tomato could be as high as 19 per cent, which results in high prices for this highly consumed commodity.”

The IIT Guwahati team used a mix of a micro-algae extract and polysaccharides to produce protective, edible films for coating on vegetables and fruits. The researchers also tested the biosafety of these coatings by treating BHK-21 cells with these coating materials. Their tests showed that these coating materials were nontoxic and could be safely used as edible food packaging materials.

Speaking about the developed biodegradable coating, Professor Vimal Katiyar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, “The newly-developed coatings can be mass-produced and are unique. They are very stable to light, heat and temperature up to 40oC, edible and can be safely eaten as part of the product formulation and do not add unfavourable properties to it. They retain the texture, colour, appearance, flavour, nutritional value and microbial safety of the fruit or vegetable that has been coated, thereby enhancing their shelf life to several weeks to months”.

The results of this research have been published in prestigious journals including Royal Society of Chemistry Advances, Food Packaging and Shelf Life, Food Chemistry, IJBM, ACS-JAFC and American Chemical Society’s Food Science and Technology.

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