- Silk could be a potential solution for reducing food waste, particularly of fresh produce, according to Tufts University researchers.
- Researchers have developed a coating containing the silk protein fibroin which inhibits fruit respiration, or the discharge of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water vapor.
- When strawberries were dipped into the solution several times, they lasted for a week with little noticeable deterioration. In comparison, color changes and dehydration were seen in strawberries not dipped in the solution.
The silk protein solution could offer a way for manufacturers to reduce waste throughout their supply chain. They could apply the solution to the produce shipped from farmers and used in production. If processing is delayed or they order too much of a perishable ingredient, manufacturers won't have to worry about the produce spoiling before they can use it.
Also, if perishable ingredients can last longer due to the solution, that could mean a longer shelf life for products that use those ingredients. This offers more time to sell a product and reduces food waste at the retailer level.
The question is whether using this solution will have any impact on the flavor of the produce itself or a product the produce is used in. Researchers were not allowed to eat the fruits per the parameters of the experiment, but they claim that their solution is edible and odorless. One researcher said he believes the solution would be flavorless because he has tasted silkworms in the past.
While the solution could be a significant cost-saver, manufacturers have to weigh the costs of lost ingredients against the costs of any potential flavor changes when using the silk protein solution.
Tackling food waste has become a key issue for the industry. Supply chain innovations have included using "ugly" produce and reusing wastewater for other products or packaging. Nestle and General Mills recently voiced support for a national food dating standard.