Chitin is the structural material of crustaceans, insects, and fungi, and is the second most abundant biopolymer after cellulose on earth. Chitosan, a deacetylated derivative of chitin, can be obtained by deacetylation of chitin. It is a functionally versatile biopolymer due to the presence of amino groups responsible for the various properties of the polymer. Although it has been used for various industrial applications, the recent one is its use as a biodegradable antimicrobial food packaging material. Much research has been focused on chitosan-based flexible food packaging and edible food coatings to compete with conventional non-biodegradable plastic-based food packaging materials. Various strategies have been used to improve the properties of chitosan - using plasticizers and cross-linkers, embedding the polymer with fillers such as nanoparticles, fibers, and whiskers, and blending the polymer with natural extracts and essential oils and also with other natural and synthetic polymers. However, much research is still needed to bring this biopolymer to industrial levels for the food packaging applications. Industrial relevance: As a major by-product of the seafood industry, a massive amount of crustacean shell waste is generated each year, which can be used to produce value-added chitin, which can be converted to chitosan using a relatively simple deacetylation process. Being extracted from a bio-waste product using many energy-efficient methods, chitosan is much cheaper as compared to other biopolymers. Nevertheless, the exceptional properties of chitosan make it a relatively stronger candidate for food packaging applications. Chitosan has already been used in various industries, such as biomedical, agriculture, water treatment, cosmetics, textile, photography, chromatography, electronics, paper industry, and food industry. This review article compiles all the essential literature up to the latest developments of chitosan as a potential food packaging material and the outcomes of its practical utilization for this purpose.
Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, Volume 62, June 2020,