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UA researchers create a material from pineapple waste that extends the life of meat products by 15%


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UA researchers create a material from pineapple waste that extends the life of meat products by 15%


Researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry, Nutrition and Bromatology of the University of Alicante (UA) have developed a new packaging material, which contains agri-food waste from the pineapple processing industry, suitable for preserving meat products for longer. Specifically, it increases the life of these products by 15 percent.

The main researcher of the project and UA professor Ana Beltrán explained in a statement that, through the Valpipack circular economy project, they have managed to develop "an antioxidant active packaging from pineapple hearts that allows increasing the shelf life of packaged meat products".

This project is an example of reuse and revaluation of agri-food waste since, in the case of pineapple, around 435,000 tons of waste are generated annually, which leads to an environmental problem and represents the loss of 360 million euros.

"Of all the pineapple imported by the European Union, approximately half is sold directly and the other half is processed. 60% of the product generated during this processing phase corresponds to by-products such as the crown, skin and heart of the pineapple. the pineapple," Beltrán pointed out.

Traditionally, these pineapple byproducts have been used as animal feed, disposed of as waste in landfills, or burned to produce energy. However, the UA researcher has specified that these by-products constitute a "potential source of substances with high added value" which, as in the case of the central area, the heart of the pineapple, "has a very interesting composition with properties antioxidants".

Thus, by extracting bioactive substances from the heart of the pineapple and incorporating them into a polymer matrix intended for active packaging, UA researchers have validated its antioxidant effect in products such as minced meat.

The shelf life of these meat products is "very limited" and is between four and ten days depending on the product and its storage conditions. For this reason, the UA professor and also member of the Valpipack project José Luis Todolí has ​​highlighted that an increase in the useful life of these foods "can contribute to reducing losses due to deterioration during storage and marketing and to expanding the distribution area. of meat products".

The traditional method to maximize the preservation of meat products combines different technologies, such as low temperatures and modified atmosphere packaging (known as MAP). This implies the use of multilayer materials with complex structures, which makes their subsequent recycling difficult.

Furthermore, modified atmosphere packaging has "limitations" because its preservative effect is lost after opening the container. However, the flexible film-type UA active packaging with a "much more simplified" multilayer structure is more easily recyclable and the antioxidant effect remains as long as the material remains in contact with the food.

"The most notable thing about this active packaging is that it not only extends the useful life of the food while it is packaged, but also after the first opening of said packaging," Todolí highlighted.

Currently, the UA team of researchers is in the validation phase of the packaging prototype developed through shelf life tests and sensory analysis on different types of food products susceptible to oxidative degradation reactions, such as burger meat and beef. sliced ​​ham.

"We hope that this new active packaging based on pineapple waste will provide a new packaging solution to companies in the meat sector and we can contribute to environmental sustainability and reduce food waste," the researchers stressed.

Since its launch in 2022, this project has achieved several recognitions, such as the AEPA Women's Entrepreneurship Award at the Impulso 2023 Awards, and has been part of several programs to promote scientific and technological entrepreneurship projects such as the ua:emprende Lean program. CT and Sprint Valoriza, both from the University of Alicante.