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  • Smart Biopolymers in Food Industry


    In the last decade, a great interest in the use of carbohydrate polymers as smart and active polymer systems in the food industry has emerged. Such polymers has been sucessfully applied as carrier systems for entrapped micronutrients, antioxidant packaging systems and food quality indicators. Smart and active polymers technology has the potential to drive the development of a new generation of intelligent packaging systems, as well as of microparticles, that contributes to the monitoring and extension of food products shelf-life. Therefore, techniques for the preparation and characterization of smart and active carbohydrate polymers films and microparticles, their challenges and state-of-the-art, as well as its potential applications to the food industry are discussed in this chapter.


    Food industry plays a role in our modern society that goes beyond the production and distribution of food products. This industry is also responsible for controlling the quality and safety of its products, as well as to meet the demands from consumers. Among these demands, we can cite the demand for foods with quality(Jokerst 2012) from the production to home-shelf. In this context, there is a growing interest in the development of active and smart polymers that can be applied to the food industry. These polymers, such as carobhydrate polymers, can be used in the development of active films or in the microencapsulation of bioactive compounds, being part of an active package with antimicrobial or antioxidant properties(Bhattarai 2014), or part of a chemical sensor able to indicate food spoilage(Rukchon , Vu 2014, Maciel 2014, Silva-Pereira 2015, Pereira 2015). Currently many studies have been carried out with the aim of evaluate the antioxidant capacity and colorimetric properties of carobohydrate films, targeting their use as active packaging. Concerning antioxidant films, the incorporation of antioxidant natural extracts in films can improve the shelf life of food products and decreases its oxidation(Ivan {\v{S}}imkovic and Ivan Kelnar and Iveta Uhliarikov{\'{a}} and Raniero Mendichi and Anurag Mandalika and Thomas Elder 2014). Therefore, new studies evaluating the effect of application of tocopherols (Marcos 2014), carotenoids, essential oils (Ramos 2014), phenolic compounds(Iñiguez-Franco 2012), curcuminoids (Bitencourt 2014), vitamin C, flowers (Samsudin 2014), seaweeds (Cian 2014), leaves, roots (Tongnuanchan 2013) and residues of food industry  (Ferreira 2014), in fish (Barbosa-Pereira 2014), meat (Contini 2014), beverages and cereals have been developed. On the side of Smart sensor films, such as colorimetric (Pacquit 2006, Pacquit 2007, Wu 2013, Yoshida 2014, Pereira 2015, Zhang 2014), radiofrequency (Wang Tingman 2010), photochromic (Kreyenschmidt 2010), bacterial growth kinetic (Zhang 2013), intelligent inks (Mills 2005), oxygen indicators (Vu 2013, Eaton 2002) and nanotechnology sensor systems (Duncan 2011) have been developed and successfully tested both in academy and in the industry. Concerning microencapsulation, it has been used for numerous applications in several industry segments and has been widely used in the food industry for protection and controlled release of bioactive compounds, enzymes, probiotics and micronutrients. This is a technology that presents potential application for food industry. Due to the current importance of smart biopolymers in food industry as films and microparticles, this chapter will discuss the challenge of development and use of smart polymers in food industry.

    Antioxidant Carbohydrate films

    De acordo com dados da Organização das Nações Unidas para Alimentação e a Agricultura,(FAO 2013) em 2013 houve um desperdício de 1300 milhões de toneladas de alimentos, em todo o mundo, ou seja, um terço de todos os alimentos produzidos, este valor representa uma perda de 750000 milhões de dólares USD e estima-se que 46% do desperdício ocorre nas etapas de processamento, distribuição e consumo dos alimentos, o que aumenta o dano ambiental causado pelo desperdício, uma vez que, estão inseridos os custos ambientais (como emissão de carbono, uso da água e do solo), do processamento, transporte e armazenamento. Um dos motivos atribuído ao desperdício em países desenvolvidos, se deve a compras em excesso, acarretando no final da vida de prateleira e descarte do alimento que ainda se encontra em condições de ser consumido.

    Uma alternativa para diminuição do desperdício de alimentos que ocorre nas etapas posteriores ao processamento, seria o investimento na tecnologia de embalagens, mais especificamente embalagens ativas, ou seja, “packaging in which subsidiary constituents have been included in or on either the packaging material or the package headspace to enhance the performance of the package system” (Robertson 2006). Dentre as embalagens ativas, destaca-se os filmes incorporados de compostos antioxidantes. Currently many studies have been carried out with the aim of evaluate the antioxidant capacity of films, targeting(Wang 2014) their use as active packaging, for the reason that the incorporation of antioxidant extracts in films can improve the shelf life of products and decreases oxidation in food rich in unsaturated fatty acids.

    An extensive scientific research about the use of synthetic antioxidants like BHT, BHA, poliphenols, thioesters and organophosphate in food packaging exists. However, there is a current trend of utilization of natural antioxidants instead of synthetic antioxidants, due to adverse physiological effects tha