The EU-funded NANOBARRIER (Extended shelf-life biopolymers for sustainable and multifunctional food packaging solutions) project set out to develop a new nanotechnology platform. Project partners developed a platform based on inorganic-organic hybrid polymers, microfibrillated cellulose, time-temperature indicator, nanocapsules with controlled permeability and additive technology. These are combined with resource-efficient processing technologies to provide extended shelf-life and biopolymer packaging. The NANOBARRIER team devised sensors to detect oxygen, mechanical rupture, temperature and pH changes. The developed sensors and barrier promoters for smart packages and their production were upscaled. The barrier promoters considerably reduce the permeability of food packaging, namely paperboard, jars, bottles and trays, with respect to humidity and atmospheric oxygen. Sensors can specify packed food decay resulting from package damage or incorrect storage conditions. They take the form of nanoparticles or nanocapsules printed or painted on the package or thermo-sensitive tags. These sensors also react to pH changes and humidity inside a package as a result of food decay or temperature changes during improper storage. Researchers developed several demonstrators, and closely linked this development to ecodesign methodology and sustainability evaluation to ensure that solutions are compatible with the entire packaging value chain. The demonstrators were realised on existing resource-efficient processing equipment to ensure viable solutions for the packaging business. A life cycle analysis showed that bioplastics could enable a carbon dioxide (CO2) saving up to 40 % compared to conventional plastics, depending on the product and application. Materials used in the demonstrators were assessed for their safety and environmental properties. Testing revealed that all materials exhibit low toxicity evaluated in cell cultures. NANOBARRIER provided a sustainable barrier packaging system for foods of high economic importance. It will strengthen the EU's position in the global marketplace for products that are highly sensitive to packaging. Raw material producers and plastic converters especially stand to gain from the packaging solution.
Food packaging, food safety, NanoBarrier, biopolymers