The number of applications exploiting nanotech developments in the food sector is limited. However, the products that could be available on the market in the medium or long term, will potentially have relevant impacts on society. These include:
Smart packaging to improve food quality and safety, also to prolong shelf-life of fresh and processed products. Benefits include the reduction of the environmental load by using lightweight and biodegradable materials and the reduction of food waste along the entire food chain.
Nano-filtering (using nano-membranes/ nano-fibres) for beverage and drink filtration (e.g. water, beer, wine, oil), nano-ultra filtration in wastewater management and cleaning processes. With developing nano-filters, the availability of drinkable water can be increased, while also the pollution in natural water can be reduced (e.g. in industrial processes of landfills).
Novel ingredients/novel foods with specific functionalities, such as increasing the content of healthy substances (e.g. vitamins, carotene), changing specific properties (e.g. reducing allergy risks), and enabling targeted delivery/release of nutrients.
Minimally processed food, reducing the processing of foods in the production, storage and distribution phases. Novel foods and minimally processed foods both benefit society in similar ways. For instance, they improve nutrition, reduced presence of additives, improved food flavour, and could make the production process more efficient.
Plant protection products for agricultural application to improve barriers on plants against microorganisms. In this way, the use of pesticides and improved plant nutrition products (e.g. fertilizers) can be reduced, while also the efficacy of growing crops can be increased.
Creative ways to explore the developments in nano and food
The Responsible Nano Forum would like to explore directly with citizens some of the possible applications of technology, notably nanotechnology and biotechnology, in food and packaging and understand their views, preferences and concerns.
The NANO Supermarket presents speculative nanotech products that may hit the shelves within the next ten years: Medicinal candy, interactive wall paint, programmable wine and more. Our debate provoking products are both innovative as well as uncanny and disturbing. They function as scenarios for potential technological futures, helping us to decide what future we actually want.
European Technology Platform
Publication on food for tomorrow’s consumer; step-changing the innovation power and impact of the European food and drink industry to the benefit of a sustainable society.
Studies about Nano and food
Strawberries in a conventional food container (upper row) and nano-silver container (lower row). (Test series and pictures: The Innovation Society Ltd.)
Nanomaterials are used in agriculture in order to reduce applications of plant protection products, minimize nutrient losses in fertilization, and increase yields through optimized nutrient management.
Agricultural products can be coated with an edible, protective layer of nano-coating which helps prolong the shelf life and also provides additional nutrients when consumed.