An Extensive Review of Natural Polymers Used as Coatings for Postharvest Shelf-Life Extension: Trends and Challenges
Global demand for minimally processed fruits and vegetables is increasing due to the tendency to acquire a healthy lifestyle. Losses of these foods during the chain supply reach as much as 30%; reducing them represents a challenge for the industry and scientific sectors. The use of edible packaging based on biopolymers is an alternative to mitigate the negative impact of conventional films and coatings on environmental and human health. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that natural coatings added with functional compounds reduce the post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables without altering their sensorial and nutritive properties. Furthermore, the enhancement of their mechanical, structural, and barrier properties can be achieved through mixing two or more biopolymers to form composite coatings and adding plasticizers and/or cross-linking agents. This review shows the latest updates, tendencies, and challenges in the food industry to develop eco-friendly food packaging from diverse natural sources, added with bioactive compounds, and their effect on perishable foods. Moreover, the methods used in the food industry and the new techniques used to coat foods such as electrospinning and electrospraying are also discussed. Finally, the tendency and challenges in the development of edible films and coatings for fresh foods are reviewed.