Iowa State’s Polymer and Food Protection Consortium Is on the Move

The Polymer and Food Protection Consortium (PFPC) recently shifted its packaging processing function to the Biocentury Research Farm near Boone, having outgrown its original facilities on the Iowa State campus. The larger space will enable PFPC to continue expanding its services in food safety research to support companies. 

Iowa State employee Katie Updegraff takes samples of headspace gases, which will be studied to detect changes in packaged salads over time.

With initial and ongoing support from CIRAS, the consortium opened in 2015, one year after director Keith Vorst arrived from California Polytechnic State University. Vorst’s goal is to be the premiere packaging research institute in the nation. The consortium is well on its way—having more than doubled its lab space, published several scholarly articles, and applied for numerous patents involving new techniques for manufacturing packaging from recycled material. 

PFPC has provided several CIRAS clients with solutions focused on design, safety, and function of materials for packaging and industrial applications. 

“One client wanted to understand the impact of display case lighting on food quality over time,” said Chris Hill, CIRAS program director. “PFPC developed a test protocol, ran the testing, and provided relevant data on changes to extend the shelf life of the product.” 

CIRAS connected another client with PFPC for assistance with monitoring the company’s packaging product for contaminates. PFPC developed and installed a monitoring program that worked with the company’s existing manufacturing system. 

Other consortium projects have included probing the safety of microwave popcorn bags and testing new uses for recycled materials in packaging.  

“Food companies nationwide are rushing to improve their products,” said Vorst. He went on to say that “updated packaging and using more recycled material

 saves money and helps companies market to an increasingly green-minded public.”  

“It’s not just about cost savings,” he added. “Now, it’s about value added and improving performance.” 

“CIRAS plays a key role in connecting companies with university resources like PFPC,” said Hill. “This support is focused not only on providing the insights needed to improve, but also on education to help companies make changes within their businesses for long-term success.” 

 For more, contact Rachel Hahn at or 515-620-8093.