Food scientists in the Irish Republic believe they are close to finding the answer to a sticky problem - with the development of a biodegradable chewing gum that can be either swallowed safely or, if dropped on the street, be washed away by rain.

Researchers at University College Cork, who have been working on the project for six months, claim results using cereal proteins are "very promising".

They said they hoped to create a non-sticky, biodegradable gum within a few years. The team, drawn from the university's faculty of food science and technology, has been given €250,000 by the Department of Agriculture to fund the trials.