Polymer and Food Protection Consortium Adds Expert for Outreach

Mitch Michel

Iowa State University’s Polymer and Food Protec­tion Consortium has added a plastic manufactur­ing expert to help Iowa companies deal with their growing focus on the safety and effectiveness of food packaging.

Mitchell Michel, a longtime Iowa State instructor and research associate, began working full time with the consortium early this year. Michel’s position is being partially funded by CIRAS in a bid to make certain that businesses have access to the kind of expertise that they increas­ingly need.

CIRAS program manager Mike O’Donnell said many Iowa companies are looking for someone to help them prove the worth of new innovations or guide them through concerns about their existing packaging. “Mitch and the Polymer and Food Protection Consortium are positioned to provide critical help,” he said.

Iowa State’s packaging consortium has grown steadily since it was established in 2015. Director Keith Vorst, an associate professor in the Depart­ment of Food Science and Human Nutrition, last fall announced plans to create a new home for the consortium in the Iowa State University Research Park.

The expansion coincides with Vorst’s efforts to cre­ate the nation’s first scientific process for certifying the quality of recycled material and biobased pack­aging. The researchers’ goal essentially will be to establish a recipe and testing scheme so companies can make certain that any new recycled packaging is both effective and safe for consumers.

Michel, whose background includes expertise in processing plastics through extrusion and mold­ing processes to create products, said his role is to “help be a bridge” by working both with companies and with student researchers.

Researchers at the Polymer and Food Protection Consortium are “kind of the go-to people the indus­try is actually looking for,” Michel said. “There are a lot of people worldwide who want guidance on what to do, especially when it comes to recycled plastics.”

For more information, contact CIRAS food industry account manager Brenda Martin at bkmartin@iastate.edu or 515-570-5282.