Edible Food Wraps Win National
Award By Marcia
March 18, 2002
Edible fruit- and vegetable-based food wraps have garnered a
national award for an Agricultural Research
Service food scientist. The editors of Popular Science magazine chose
Tara H. McHugh's work as one of the magazine's 100 Best of What's New"
awards for 2001. Her flavorful, nutritious wraps were selected from among
thousands of products and technologies reviewed for the 14th annual
competition. McHugh is with the ARS
Foods Research Unit at the Western
Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif.
The unique wraps McHugh developed enhance flavors and protect
freshness of foods by preventing moisture loss and by blocking oxygen that
could cause unattractive browning. For example, the thin, apple-flavored wraps
that McHugh made from pureed apples intensify the flavor of apple slices and
keep them from discoloring and shrinking. Her wrap made of strawberries
complements the flavor of banana slices while keeping them fresh. McHugh's wrap
from pureed peaches might be used to cover meat and then provide a tasty,
attractive glaze when the meat is cooked.
In her laboratory, McHugh has made coatings of varying thickness
and strength from more than a dozen fruits and vegetables. They include
apricots, guavas, mangos, papayas, broccoli and carrots. The edible wraps will
increase the nutrition options for consumers and will reduce the amount of
plastic food wrap that ends up in landfills, according to McHugh. Today, nearly
2 million tons of food packaging material end up as waste, according to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
McHugh makes the wraps using casting or extrusion processing
methods. A special section of the December 2001 issue of Popular Science
magazine described McHughs work and the other award-winning
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.