The increased consumer demand for high quality, extended shelf life, ready to eat foods has initiated the development of several innovative techniques to keep their natural and fresh appearance as long as possible and at the same time render them safe. Packaging has been an important element in these preservation concepts for providing the appropriate (mechanical and functional) protection to the commodity. Since synthetic packaging materials contribute to the environmental pollution, edible coatings and packages have been proposed to replace or complement conventional packaging. Biodegradable and edible films and coatings are made from naturally occurring polymers and functional ingredients, and formed on the surface of food products. Edible films and coating have long been known to protect perishable food products from deterioration and reduce quality loss. These films should have acceptable sensory characteristics, appropriate barrier properties (CO2, O2, water, oil), microbial, biochemical and physicochemical stability, they should be safe, and be produced by simple technology in low cost. Also they can act as effective carrier for antioxidant, flavor, color, nutritional or anti-microbial additives. Patents on edible films and food products are also discussed in this article.
Keywords: Edible films/coatings, permeability, mechanical properties, shelf life, packaging