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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Dairy and Functional Foods Research » Research » Research Project #428714

Research Project: Improving the Sustainability and Quality of Food and Dairy Products from Manufacturing to Consumption via Process Modeling and Edible Packaging

Location: Dairy and Functional Foods Research

2018 Annual Report

1: Integrate new processes into the Fluid Milk Process Model (FMPM) to determine the effects of reductions in energy use, water use or waste on commercial dairy plant economics and greenhouse gas emissions. 1a: Develop benchmark simulations for configurations of stirred, set and strained curd yogurt processing plants in the US that quantify energy use, economics, and greenhouse gas emissions, validated using data from industry. 1b: Use process simulation for evaluation of possible alternatives of whey utilization for the strained curd method of yogurt manufacture. 2: Integrate properties of edible films and coatings from dairy and food processing wastes with formulation strategies to better target commercial food and nonfood applications. 2a: Investigate thermal and mechanical properties of dairy protein-based edible films and coatings in real-life storage and utilization conditions. 2b: Apply new property findings to the investigation of useful and/or sustainable applications utilizing edible milk protein films. 3: Investigate the effects of different film-making technologies to manipulate the physical and functional properties of films and coatings made from agricultural materials. 3a: Investigate the effect of protein conformation on the ability to electrospin caseinates in aqueous solution and in the presence of a polysaccharide. 3b: Investigate the use of fluid milk, nonfat dry milk and milk protein concentrates as a source for production of electrospun fibers. 3c: Investigate the effects of edible and non-edible additives to the electrospun polysaccharide-caseinate fibers in aqueous solution.

Research will be conducted to extend the use of the Fluid Milk Process Model (FMPM) to simulate different types of US dairy production plants to identify the main sources of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, propose ways to reduce water usage, and utilize waste streams more efficiently, either by water recovery or recovery of valuable constituents. Simulation results will be validated with data from industry, university and other partners. New edible packaging films and coatings from dairy proteins that can improve food quality and functionality, protect foods from spoilage and extend shelf - life, increase nutrition, reduce landfill waste, and utilize protein-rich surpluses and by-products of the dairy industry to boost their value such as nonfat-dry milk, or its derivatives casein and whey, will be designed with an emphasis on formulation and film-processing technique, for performance under commonly encountered storage and ambient conditions. Finally, those same protein-rich surpluses and by-products will be blended with other edible polymers then structurally modified using the novel electrospinning technology, to create micro- and nanofibers that can form new highly-value-added food and non-food products. This research is expected to help the US dairy and other food industries improve their sustainability, productivity, and profitability while providing new and better products to US consumers.

Progress Report
Objective 1: An earlier version of the fluid milk process simulator (FMPM) has been updated for placement on the ARS website. The yogurt version of the simulator will be placed online after testing of the simulator is completed. Objective 2: The manufacture and characterization of edible films from different dairy protein sources and a variety of edible additives is ongoing. Films made from (nonfat dry milk) and/or calcium caseinate and/or other dairy powders were prepared with different ratios, concentrations and alkaline additives, and evaluated for their appearance, microscopic structure, tensile strength and elasticity, solubility in water, dynamic mechanical properties, and oxygen barrier properties. In addition, film suspensions were examined via optical microscopy and dynamic rheometry before casting the films. Edible films ranging from a low solubility to an instant solubility, and with a high strength and stiffness to a high elasticity, were successfully prepared, to enable a wide range of films and coatings applications. Evaluation of the shelf-life of the films and changes in properties as they age, under controlled environmental conditions, is under way. Inquiries from numerous US and international companies have been received about utilizing the films for a large variety of food and nonfood applications; therefore, efforts have been focused on developing numerous formulations to produce films with mechanical and physical properties that fit the varied requests. A new invention disclosure was filed and 1 new collaboration and new MTA were signed. Objective 3: Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) of electrospun fiber mats with different compositions and under different solution was performed, under precise environmental conditions (50% humidity and 23C), to determine the effects of formulation on the mechanical properties of the mats and for comparison with edible films.


Review Publications
Bucci, A.J., Van Hekken, D.L., Tunick, M.H., Renye Jr, J.A., Tomasula, P.M. 2018. The effects of microfluidization on the physical, microbial, chemical, and coagulation properties of milk. Journal of Dairy Science. 101:1-12.
Akkurt, S., Liu, L.S., Tomasula, P.M. 2018. Electrospinning of edible, food-based polymers. In R.V. Rai & J.A. Bai, editors. Nanotechnology Applications in the Food Industry. CRC Press. p. 293-316.
Liu, L.S., Firrman, J., Tanes, C., Bittinger, K., Thomas-Gahring, A.E., Wu, G.D., Van Den Abbeel, P., Tomasula, P.M. 2018. Establishing a mucosal gut microbial community in vitro using an an artificial simulator. PLoS One. 13(7):1-20.