And yet tucked away amidst all the doom and gloom of the last two months comes the decidedly bizarre news from the University of Minnesota (where else) that a team of researchers, led by an Irish microbiologist, has recently discovered a naturally occurring compound in harmless bacteria that not only neutralizes e-coli, salmonella and listeria, but when injected into certain food products can prolong their viable life expectancy indefinitely.
It is called bisin. It might appear to be literally one vowel away from a load of old bull, but is in fact the genetic sibling to the similar-sounding nisin, which is already helping to keep processed cheese viable and arguably edible for longer than living memory (or thereabouts). As such, it won’t have to jump through any FSA hoops but is being tipped to seamlessly insinuate its way into anything from sausages to salad dressing and onto the supermarket shelves within three years.
Aside from the more fanciful science fiction connotations – one Daily Mail reader has likened it to the movie ‘Soylent
Green’; a dubious but, given the context, impressive metaphor – I can’t help wondering how the adoption of bisin could impact upon the packaging industry.
For example, will it mean cheerio to closures on wine bottles? By the same token, how does something like this play out for the food processing industry? I’m sure that while unnecessary waste offends them as much as it does everyone else – at least on a social level – the prospect of some vintage quiche Lorraine or steak and kidney pie hanging around the larder until England next lifts the World Cup isn’t exactly going to boost the bottom line.
There’s no way of supporting this view, but the timing of bisin’s discovery does seem, well, timely. And in any event, if it’s such a naturally occurring compound then how come any prior knowledge of its existence hasn’t already naturally occurred to the boffins until now?
No matter. Far from threatening assorted packaging formats it could directly lead to them being more positively perceived. Shooting up a brace of lamb cutlets has all the connotations of GM crops, mad cow disease and other sundry ‘we are what we eat’ scare stories.
The spectre raised by bisin-treated convenience foods could actually be just what it takes to get even the most ardent opponent of packaging reappraising the security provided by a few grams of plastic film – the benefits of which look transparently obvious compared with the distasteful prospect of a hot dog that’s been cooling its heels for a couple of years.
Des King is a freelance journalist specialising in packaging. Send your comments for Des to email@example.com