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Specialist explains why it is so complicated to stop using plastic in food packaging

July 5, 2016

Dr. María José Galotto, a member of Cedenna and director of the Food Packaging Laboratory of the Universidad de Santiago, joined the Board of Directors of the International Association of Packaging Research Institutes. She comments on the technological challenges for this field.

“This appointment means being in the forefront in research globally into food packaging”, stated Dr. María José Galotto, a member of the Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CEDENNA), who recently became a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Packaging Research Institutes (IAPRI), which brings together the main research institutes in packaging technology from around the world.

Dr. Galotto, who directs the Packaging Laboratory of the Universidad de Santiago, sees the appointment as recognition of the work of the team that works. “ It is not personal recognition, but rather of the work done in the laboratory. I am pleased because this effort is being recognized. We have all worked very hard as a team supporting one another, and it is very pleasing that this contribution is recognized. One person alone cannot achieve this”, she said.

Dr. Galotto was appointed in mid-April. Although she accepted the nomination, she did not consider herself elected to the Board of IAPRI as this requires the support of at least four member institutions. During the World Packaging Conference in Campinas, Brazil in June received the nomination to take one of three open positions on the Board with the support of institutions in Spain, the USA, Israel and Brazil. The other Board positions were taken by the researchers Changfeng Ge from the Rochester Institute of Technology and Gregory Batt from Clemson University, both in the USA.

The position on the Board is for four years, with the possibility of re-election. Shelf life and processed foods The Board of Directors is responsible for coordinating events like the global conference on packaging that take place every two years. It also works on systematizing the interaction between the private sector and joint projects of members. The Board also keeps abreast of trends in technological development, addressing social and economic factors, such as the pressures against the continued use of plastics.

“The problem we face today is that if we change from plastic container, for example,

for food, and use more sustainable containers, the food will not have the same shelf life or the quality or safety that we have because the technological challenge is great and this is where we need to be working”, emphasized the CEDENNA researcher.

Dr. Galotto affirmed that in food packaging technology we are seeking alternatives to market food that can last longer, but at the same time are as fresh as possible.

“Consumers want less processed foods, but this means reduced food safety and a shorter shelf life, so that we have to look for ways to increase shelf life with less processing”, she stated.

She stated that another challenge is to give paper and cardboard packaging the properties of plastic in order to replace plastic. “We have to find alternative that provide the same benefits and properties as plastics but with less environmental impact. This is fundamental. This is where nanotechnology provides tools to improve the properties of biodegradable materials or alternatives to traditional materials. We are working on this, as are many groups worldwide”, stated Dr. Galotto.

Institutions become members of IAPRI by invitation. More than fifteen years ago the Packaging Laboratory of the Universidad de Santiago, which participates in CEDENNA, joined IAPRI and has consolidated its role as one of the most advanced centers in this technological field in South America along with CETEA in Brazil.

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