Edible food wraps can keep kids' sandwiches fresh and the environment cleaner

With a new school year upon us, kids may soon have the chance to eat healthier and also help the environment, using something unique wrapped around their tuna, turkey or PB&J sandwiches. Edible vegetable and fruit wraps, among the latest developments from modern chemistry, could keep lunches fresher longer and be substituted for some non-biodegradable wraps, says the creator, food chemist Tara McHugh, Ph.D.

McHugh, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Albany, Calif., says the edible wraps are more environment-friendly than plastic wrap and aluminum foil. In addition to covering sandwiches, she says the new wraps can protect meat in home freezers. And they also add to a healthful diet because each wrap is equal to a serving of a fruit or a vegetable.

"Another advantage of these wraps," she explains, "is that they can provide a glaze or a sauce for cooking. You can use a tomato or ketchup-flavored wrap to hamburgers when you freeze them and then when you defrost the meat you can cook the whole thing, wrap and all."

The wraps come in a wide variety of flavors, including broccoli, carrot, tomato, mango, peach, pear, apple, papaya and strawberry. The fact that they are biodegradable, unlike plastic and aluminum products, is compatible with the goals of green chemistry, which works to improve the environment or prevent harm to the land and water, according to McHugh.

McHugh's work is featured in the April 2003 issue of the quarterly magazine, ChemMatters, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The magazine is designed for high school chemistry students and features articles about chemistry in everyday life.

A food wrap is an edible film cut in pre-formed sheets or into envelope-like shapes. It looks like a piece of paper, except that it's made from a highly concentrated puree of a fruit or a vegetable, not from a tree. While a wrap made entire

Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society

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