Nanotechnology in Food Packaging

Nanotechnology some times referred as the technology of future generation. We all are agree with this, when it comes to field of food technology. In food industry there is a heavy need of light weight, durable, ecofriendly containers that preserve the food items for a long time. It is also not an easy to task to check the packaged food items to fin its quality. In these essential areas nanotechnology can play a big role. Interesting ! then read on…


Nanocor,- a company focused in the production of nanocomposites, which are polymers bonded with nanocrystals to provide the materials with enhanced properties and the company is making nanocomposites for use in plastic beer bottles that give the contents a six-month shelf-life. The method is introducing nanocrystals into the plastic that essentially create a maze from which oxygen molecules find it difficult to escape. These type of new containers will eliminate the spoilage and flavor problems. Other interesting feature of this nanocomposite is, it offers other benefits like lighter weight and better recyclability, and less transportation and production costs by reducing the amount of material used to package items.

Professor Andrew Mills food packaging

Professor Andrew Mills with food packaging with intelligent plastic indicator

Nanotechnology in packaging offers the possibilities of lightweighting, strength improvement, monolayer structures with multilayer capabilities, improved barrier properties against environmental factors, increased shelf life, encoding or decorating individual surfaces, counterfeit protection, smart substrates that can sense and signal food contamination or spoilage within or outside a package, improved recyclability.certain nanoparticles in plastic end products provides improvement in flame resistance, mechanical & thermal properties, and also enhances resistance to gas transmission. Another important advantage of these bottles made with nanocomposites, minimizes the leakage of carbon dioxide out of the bottle, which increases the shelf life of carbonated beverages without having to use expensive cans or heavier glass bottles.

One of the worst problem in the food packaging industry is to preserve the food items for a long time. Nanotechnology can find a solution for it too; food storage bins with silver nanoparticles embedded in the plastic are found to be the best containers to keep the food safe for a long time. The silver nanoparticles kill bacteria from any food previously stored in the bins, minimizing harmful bacteria. Another findings in this filed is the special plastic films which can be used to keep the food to stay fresher longer. These films are packed with silicate nanoparticles to reduce the flow of oxygen into the package and the leaking of moisture out of the package. The use of silver nanoparticles as anti-bacterial agent or nanoclay coatings are some of the findings, the field is growing in a rapid rate, more and more innovative materials are under development to keep food items  and vegetables fresher for a long time. The new method will improve food safety and cut unnecessary food waste by developing a new type of indicator, made of ‘intelligent plastics’ which give a warning, by changing colour, of when food is about to lose its freshness or has exceeded its expiry date or has been poorly refrigerated.

We are discussed a lot about preserving food items for a long time. Consider such a case a food item in the package is badly damaged and how to find and remove it? Nanosensors are the answer for it. Nanosensors in plastic packaging can detect gases given off by food items when it spoils and the packaging itself changes color to alert you to food gone bad. Another interesting finding is, nanosensors that can detect bacteria and other contaminates such as salmonella on the surface of food at a packaging plant. In addition to this, there are also nanosensors being developed to detect pesticides on fruit and vegetables.

In the food packaging industry, silicate nanoparticles is used to provide a barrier to gasses (say, oxygen), or moisture in a plastic film used for packaging, thus by reducing the possibly of food spoiling or drying out. For the safe packing of food items, Zinc oxide nanoparticles can be used, these nanoparticles can be incorporated into plastic packaging to block UV rays and provide anti bacterial protection, while improving the strength and stability of the plastic film. The Nanosensors incorporated in the food packaging will allow the frequent testing at a much lower cost than sending samples to a lab for analysis. Another interesting development is the ‘Interactive’ foods, which are being developed to allow you to choose the desired flavor and color. Nanocapsules that contain flavor or color enhancers are embedded in the food; inert until the end consumer triggers them. In agricultural field, pesticides encapsulated in nanoparticles that only release pesticide within an insect’s stomach, thus minimizing the contamination of plants and in last intelligent sensors there to recognize when a plant needs nutrients or water, the dispensers then release fertilizer, nutrients, or water as needed for the plant which will optimize the growth of the plant and will reduce the wastage of essential nutrients..

The market research indicates that packaging with nanotechnology is expected to grow at 11.65% from 2008 until 2013. What you think about these rapid growing nanotechnology based food packaging industry? Is it a boon or bane?

[Image courtesy: University of Strathclyde]

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