Researchers at bioactive paper organisation Sentinel have found that anti-microbial polymers can be applied to paper packaging to create an effective barrier against E.Coli and Salmonella aureus.

The addition of antimicrobial agents to paper and board will avoid the need of preservatives in food and medicine packaging.

The antimicrobial, guanidine-based polymers are bonded to starch and the bonding is applied to the paper via wet-end addition or by surface-coating.

"Bonding prevents the polymers from leaching, so it improves the antimicrobial action and its long-term effectiveness."

The polymer disrupts the cell structure when it comes in direct contact with the pathogen, causing the contents to spill out. As the damage is physical not chemical, anti-microbial resistance is not likely to develop. Other advantages include direct manufacturing process and no need for FDA approvals since monomers already have it.

The product made with polymer/starch bonding can be used by food packagers, retailers, fast food outlets, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

University of New Brunswick researcher Huining Xiao said: "Bonding prevents the polymers from leaching, so it improves the antimicrobial action and its long-term effectiveness.

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"As a bonus, bonding also improves the mechanical strength of the paper."

The researchers have estimated that the requirement for advanced food packaging has increased by 9.7% annually since 2000, saying the food contact paper market in the US stood at $7.95bn in 2013.