Nanosilver in PE doubles shelf life of milk in Brazil

Brazilian materials development company Nanox reports that, by employing an antimicrobial nanosilver additive, it has been able to extend the shelf life of milk from seven to 15 days.

The nanomaterial has been added to rigid polyethylene (PE) bottles used by locally based dairy firm Agrindus for its Letti brand fresh milk. The nanosilver powder is added to the PE preforms, allowing the containers to be blow or injection moulded.

Nanox is a company spun off from the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp). Speaking to its news service, Nanox CEO Luiz Pagotto Simões explains: ‘We already knew use of our antimicrobial and bactericidal material in rigid or flexible plastic food packaging improves conservation and extends shelf life.

‘So we decided to test it in the polyethylene used to bottle grade-A fresh milk in Brazil. The result was that we more than doubled the product’s shelf life solely by adding the material to the packaging, without mixing any additives with the milk.’

He notes these findings have been validated by Agrindus and independent test labs. The same process for rigid PE bottles is now being tested by two more dairies, while other firms in the segment are looking to adapt it for use in flexible format packaging. Simões says: ‘In milk bags, the material is capable of extending shelf life from four to 10 days.’

Nanox hopes this material will have a transformative effect on the milk industry in Brazil. Long transport distances and the lack of refrigeration infrastructure in the country means that ultra-high temperature (UHT) products have hitherto been the norm for Brazilian consumers.

In the longer term, the São Paulo-based company plans to market its antimicrobial solution into the high-volume dairy markets for Europe and North America too. It already holds an approval from the US Food and Drug Administration ‘to market bactericidal materials for use in plastic food packaging.’

There are ongoing concerns about the safety of nanomaterials, and nanosilver in particular, for food packaging applications in both Europe and the US however, which are likely to retard the introduction of the Nanox solution.

This article comes from Food Contact World, which provides exclusive news and analysis on developments in digital print trends, markets, and technologies.