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Edible Food Wraps Win National Award

By Marcia Wood
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 Processed 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 McHugh’s work and the other award-winning inventions.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

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