Edible Packaging? Are we ready?

edible burger

Credit: NY Daily News

Back in 1960s, Roald Dahl’s imagination ran away with Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory in Charlie and Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka, Oompa-Loompas, and the Everlasting Gobstopper were created. In 1971 the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released into theaters where we watched Willy Wonka drink from a tea cup and then eat it. It has been 45 years since the movie was created, and the age of edible or innovative packaging is becoming a reality.

If we take the time to think about the amount of packaging we use on just one item, we might rethink what we could do differently. For example, as I’m writing this article I am eating a bag of microwave popcorn. The popcorn comes in a bag, the bag is in a cellophane wrapper, and the wrapped popcorn bag was in a box, inside another box that it was shipped in. That’s FOUR layers of packaging to get to the popcorn. According to the EPA based on the 2013 Fact Sheet, Americans alone generated about 254 million TONS of trash and composted over 87 million tons of this material. [See the statistics by clicking here!]   One can easily see that our environment needs a break from the waste that we, as humans create.

Just recently the American Chemical Society introduced a packaging film made of milk protein, casein. According to research leader Peggy Tomasula, D.Sc., “ The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain.” [Learn more by clicking here.] Currently most food packaging is petroleum-based which puts additional unnecessary stress on our environment, with plastic taking up to 1,000 years to completely decompose. So by the time my kid is a grandparent, the plastic I’m using today still might not be decomposed.

At first the film was hard to handle and would easily dissolve in water too quickly. When citrus pectin was added to the blend the packaging became even stronger. Not only did it become stronger but it was more resistant to humidity and high temperatures. In the future, nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be added. Also, though casein doesn’t have a lot of flavor, flavors could actually be added in the future.  

There are several drawbacks to casein-based packaging along with other edible packaging would require a secondary package to protect the edible packaging from getting wet and dissolving, or getting dirty and contaminated with microbes, becoming unsuitable for consumption. This issue also lies with other edible packaging developments.   Edible packaging also has an uphill battle of overcoming the public’s’ perception of eating the packaging that their food comes in, and trusting what they are consuming is healthy and won’t cause further health concerns like cancer down the road.

Casein is far from being the only player in the edible packaging sphere.   For example, Loliware edible drinking cups; Bob’s Brazilian Hamburger WrapsWikiCells, which are edible bites like yogurt balls by Stonyfield Organic; and Vivos Films are all creations of companies looking to package food with these new delivery methods.    

Just think about it, we already eat apples, peaches, and other fruit and vegetable with the skins on. Those skins are fruits and vegetables own packaging. We eat that so why can’t we eat an environmentally-friendly  cup that is made from sweeteners, filtered water, seaweed, and other natural flavors derived from fruits and vegetables?     Maybe Willy Wonka wasn’t so far off…perhaps we can have our tea, and eat the cup and saucer too…

Back to School: All Year Long!


As a new school year starts in many parts of the country, we’re more than likely overdue for those “Back to School” banners to be taken down in the big box stores and be replaced with an onslaught of Halloween products and advertisements.   It was a good two months of active marketing, but now it’s time to move on, right?   Truthfully, “back to school” is a mindset that doesn’t know a season and doesn’t get pushed aside for fun-size candy bars (as wonderful as they may be).

“Back to school” could be seen as a life-long mantra of continuing education and professional development.   In the food industry, if it weren’t for continuing education and training, we would never be able to keep up with consumer, regulatory, food safety and quality demands.  That’s why Nelson-Jameson is continuing to work with Cherney College, part of Cherney Microbiological Services, to offer an array of courses targeted at food industry professionals.   Cherney College offers courses year-round, addressing topics from basic food safety all the way to advanced food microbiology and FSMA Preventive Controls.

Courses are held in Green Bay, WI; however, some courses and training sessions can actually be held right on site, at your facility, to save time and travel expenses for groups.

Thanks to our partnership, Nelson-Jameson customers get an exclusive 5% discount on all course offerings!   Use promo code “Nelson-Jameson” when signing up for any of the courses featured at “cherneymicro.com.”

ATP Meets Luminometer

When I joined the lab team in May I was familiar with lab equipment and testing but I wasn’t familiar with luminometers and ATP. I had heard of ATP in my biochemistry class back in college and how the body uses ATP but I wondered: how does that relate to plant sanitation and luminometers? To better understand the relation, it is easier if we break down the two components, ATP and luminometers and then bring it together.

ATP (Adenosine triphosphate)

Adenosine triphosphate better known as ATP can be found in all types of organic matter: plant, animals, and microbial cells. ATP is the energy source in all living cells. Since there is ATP in bacteria, and yeast and mold, it is key to monitor cleaning processes, but it can’t be the only monitoring of a clean surface. With plant material, like sugars, and starches, also having ATP, ATP testing can only verify the sanitation operating procedures. So, for example, consider walking into a hotel room and everything looks clean. However, we’ve all seen those stomach turning news reports about the true cleanliness of hotel bathrooms and we can’t forget the dreadful black light test on beds and floors.  What looks clean is not always clean.  So here comes in the luminometer to verify our cleanliness.


An ATP luminometer(in conjunction with ATP swabs) is a fast and easy way to help food processors assess and validate the hygienic status of food contact surfaces. Luminometers provide an objective, recordable verification of a sanitation efficacy in a food/beverage operations.   Interestingly enough, “The science behind the luminometer is based on the enzyme luciferase-the same enzyme that makes firefly tails glow. Residual ATP interacts with luciferase to generate light.”  There are several brands of luminometers on the market,with varying protocol, but the steps for testing are relatively the same. A small surface is selected for sampling, typically a 4in x 4in or 10cm x 10cm area. While maintaining a constant pressure during swabbing, apply zigzag strokes over the selected surface, as you see here:
Figure 1

Once the selected surface is swabbed, the swab is put back into the swab tube where it is “exposed to an ATP-releasing agent (lysis buffer) and an ATP-activated light-producing substrate and enzyme (luciferin and luciferase)” . The swab is then put into the luminometer chamber where it reads the enzymatic reaction that occurs between ATP and the luciferin/luciferase, measuring RLUs or relative light units. The higher the RLUs the more ATP present on the swabbed surface. The specification limits must be set by each plant to determine what is pass, warning and fail.

Bringing it All Together

Now that we know what ATP is and what a luminometer is and how they work together we can figure out what a luminometer can and cannot do in regards to plant sanitation. Since ATP is in all living cells (including bacteria, yeast, mold, carbohydrates, protein, and others), a luminometer can only validate that the sanitation process has been thoroughly completed. A luminometer cannot and does not test for microbes.   When used on the production line, luminometer results can determine if the production line will need to be re-cleaned or if production can resume or start up again. In essence, it is an indicator that your cleaning processes are meeting sanitary standards, to help you produce a safe product.   There are many aspects in selecting the best way to validate your sanitation process. If an ATP system is used, it can’t be the only system in place and does not constitute an environmental sample program within itself. Consult regulatory bodies and professional associations to find out what necessary precautions needs to be put in place to prevent cross-contamination and food-borne pathogens.  That being said, a quality ATP system can be a quick and easy preventative control to have in your food safety and QA/QC programs.

Cheese Heists, Wing Rings and Nut Jobs: Global Crime Rings Are Stealing Food

Food Burglar

Credit: holykaw.alltop.com

Large-scale food theft is the plat du jour on criminal menus as of late. In fact, food and beverages have replaced electronics as the most-stolen good in the United States, with an estimated $21 million worth of food and beverages stolen in 2015. Products range from alcohol, meat ($41,000 in chicken wings by a father and son team in New York), and dairy (especially cheese and ice cream) to produce, nuts and seeds.  Thieves find edibles appetizing targets because the value is high and the risk is relatively low—many perishables don’t have serial numbers and can’t be tagged or traced.

Who Moved My Cheese

Cheese is currently the most stolen food item in the world. In the last 3 years, almost $425,000 worth of cheese has been stolen in Wisconsin alone—including $90,000 in Marshfield near Nelson-Jameson’s headquarters and $46,000 worth just a month ago near Milwaukee. Any way you slice it, that’s a whole lot of cheddar. Gouda thing for the dairy industry, it’s not that easy to get away with stealing lotza mozza. Cheese is a highly-regulated food, with documentation implemented at various stages of production and distribution—from paperwork to truck seals. Thus, most of the recent queso the stolen cheeses have been solved.

Going Nuts

Some of the most sophisticated and frequent shell games involve the nut industry in California, with almonds, walnuts and pistachios targeted most often. And the thieves are clearly on a (nut) roll: in the past 9 months, more than $10 million worth of product has been stolen from the California supply chain, which is about $3 million more than the amount stolen in the last 4 years.  It is believed that most of the stolen nuts are being sold for export, as they have a long shelf-life, are relatively untraceable and have increased in global value and popularity. Fortunately, the nut industry is doing their best to crack the case. Since most of the thefts take place during the logistics process, extra safety and security measures have been implemented that include radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and fingerprinting and photographing truck drivers. Police task forces have also been recently increased.

An Issue of Both Economics and Public Health

While we often laugh when we hear that someone’s stolen 600 barrels of maple syrup, don’t let the puns and humor detract from the economic damage the stolen food black market inflicts. It negatively impacts growers, agricultural laborers, processors, logistic companies, distributors, retailers and insurers. Eventually, the loss of income is passed onto the consumer through food shortages and raised prices. Food safety is also an issue. Like the California man that was caught selling unrefrigerated, stolen orange juice out of his garage, most thieves don’t care about proper handling and storage of the product. Clearly, the risk of foodborne illness combined with far-reaching monetary losses make food crime a seriously unpalatable concern that needs to be addressed with some importance. For more information on the FDA’s cargo theft policies and notices, please see http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/CriminalInvestigations/ucm182888.htm .

Arch Deluxe: Nelson-Jameson at IAFP

IAFP 2016 , image courtesy of foodprotection.org

IAFP 2016 , image courtesy of foodprotection.org

In the shadow of the towering Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, Nelson-Jameson will be displaying a host of products and services at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting (IAFP)! From July 31st-August 2nd, swing by the Exhibit Hall at the America’s Center Convention Complex to see all we have to offer!   Dayton, Fritz, Amanda, Barb, and Mat will be in attendance to help you check out several of our offerings, and to assist in figuring out how Nelson-Jameson can be of service in supplying your Lab, MRO, Processing, Ingredient, Packaging, and Cleaning Chemical needs!  This year, we’ll be featuring a wide selection of Whirl-Pak bags, 3M Food Safety supplies & instruments, 3M Safety products, Metal Detectable & Color-Coded products, and a host of other quality items.

Each year we look forward to IAFP, as it gives us a chance to connect with customers on the front lines in the fight for food safety. The Exhibit Hall, as well as a remarkable program of presentations, workshops, and meetings bring together an array of resources that continue to propel the industry forward in our new regulatory era. To check out more about IAFP, click here. Be sure to stop by our booth (#619) to find out more about how Nelson-Jameson take care of all of your food safety supply needs and beyond!

In addition, this year we will be featuring an INCREDIBLE drawing for 3M ATP Clean-Trace Luminometer! The 3M Clean-Trace ATP Luminometer is portable, compact, and simple to use for easy testing. The Luminometer is supplied with data trending software that allows plants to filter, sort, and chart your results for easier analysis, making you feel more secure about the decisions that are being made for your plant.

All you have to do to win this beauty is to simply come visit us at Booth #619, and drop off your business card. One winner will be drawn at random, and booth attendance at the time of the drawing is not required. The prize is currently valued at over $3,000, and is not eligible for exchange, return, or credit to Nelson-Jameson or 3M.

See you under the Arch!

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