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The quest to eliminate plastics from packaging

Edible Packaging May Need Insurance Safety Net

Sept 2019

The quest to eliminate plastics from packaging has just seen the UK Government providing financial backing to edible Oohos capsules, made from seaweed-based material Notpla and trialled since September 2018 by Lucozade, Ribena Suntory [1]. But are there insurance implications with this type of edible packaging?

Notpla is providing a means through which to deliver plastic-free packaging for 100ml drinks of the type sold in gyms and leisure complexes [2]. This 100%-edible material is made from sodium alginate gel and naturally biodegrades in four to six weeks. The plan is to equip gyms, leisure complex and eateries with dispensing machines for these packaged drinks and slash the amount of plastic used in this sector.

Early trials of the Oohos-packaged drinks – including sampling at The Virgin Media London Marathon - have resulted in good consumer feedback. A “very appealing” verdict has been delivered by 82% of people, which suggests this product could enable their manufacturer to do all that the UK Plastics Pact, of which it was a signatory, expects of it [3].

This is not the only seaweed packaging heading to shelves and vending machines. These can already feature products packaged in Wikicells [4] – material formed from isomalt and sugar cane. In Indonesia, the second largest seaweed producer in the world, foods including noodles and coffee are being packaged in seaweed capsules that will dissolve in hot water.

Meanwhile, in France, films for food wrapping are being created from casein and milk proteins and casein is also being used by researchers in India.

But whilst these developments are potentially good news for the food industry and those campaigning for plastic elimination, do they have any health implications for those with allergies? The Indonesian seaweed-packaging manufacturer confidently declares that seaweed “has no allergy risk”, but is that open for debate? A paper by Jason Thomas, MRCP, published in February 2019, might suggest so [5].

This paper, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology states [6]: “Patients allergic to seaweed should avoid all products containing seaweed, unless tolerance has been proved with negative skin and challenge test results.”

The jury may be out on some of the new packaging, therefore, meaning that any business introducing edible packaging should proceed with caution and ensure they have the right risk management controls in place, along with product recall insurance.

Any business heavily involved in R&D in this sector should talk to an insurance broker. A discussion about the covers required should focus on risks, liability protection, and insurance that will protect finances, trading and reputation. Our ‘Find a Local Broker tool’ is a good starting point for those wishing to have the right insurance protection underpinning their development of innovative solutions that assist the planet. With allergen concern at a high at present, it pays to be cautious and think ahead.


[1], [2] & [3]

[5] & [6]