A Spanish project transforms a dairy by-product into coatings extending the shelf life of cheese

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August 03, 2022 — A Spanish project looking for circular economy solutions in the dairy sector has converted whey into antimicrobial coatings for packaging that significantly increase the shelf life of cheese.

August 03, 2022 — A Spanish project looking for circular economy solutions in the dairy sector has converted whey into antimicrobial coatings for packaging that significantly increase the shelf life of cheese.

Whey is an abundant residue for cheese makers, with 180 million liters generated each year from the 18 million metric tons of cheese produced worldwide, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. agriculture.

The new circular economy solution will prevent food waste by extending the shelf life of cheese from 25% to 50% and provide a new feed for livestock from leftover whey, which can be used as a prebiotic ingredient to improve health animal gut and general health. welfare.

The project, which received a grant from the Spanish government in the amount of €598,660 (US$609,184), is being carried out by Aimplas, ADM, FEDACOVA (Federation of Agrifood Companies of the Valencian Community) and the University of Valencia. , Spain, in partnership with two cheese makers: La Cabezuela and Dehesa Dos Hermanas.

Whey is a ubiquitous residue generated by the cheese-making process. (Credit: Aimplas).Harnessing a ubiquitous byproduct
According to the participating organizations, the new research will allow small, artisanal cheese makers (an important part of the industry) to use the whey by-product for the first time.

Prior to the project, only large companies could afford the equipment to use the whey, which ended up being disposed of in the environment, generating hazardous waste.

“We will first separate bacteria with biopreservation potential. Then we will characterize the compounds of the matrix, which is the whey”, explains Giuseppe Meca, professor at the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Valencia.

“An application was therefore envisaged on plastic film to obtain active packaging prototypes for cheese,” adds Alicia Naderpour, packaging researcher at Aimplas.

Storing the cheese
Cheese is increasingly becoming a coveted commodity in inflation-ridden markets. While food prices have started to show signs of moderating in some categories – grains, sugar and vegetable oils – dairy prices remain stubbornly at record highs.

UK supermarkets are using security labels to prevent the theft of cheese and other dairy products like butter, surprising some consumers.

Meanwhile, on the topic of food waste, earlier this year Mondi unveiled two paper-based trays and semi-rigid plastic trays for sliced ​​foods like cheese. The paper tray uses a barrier layer combined with a plastic top web solution, which provides ‘excellent’ product protection while reducing plastic usage.

A 2021 UN report showed that 17% of food at the consumer level, equivalent to 931 metric tons, is going to be wasted every year.

By Marc Cervera

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