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NANOTECHNOLOGY IN THE FOOD CHAIN - Favv

NANOTECHNOLOGY IN THE FOOD CHAIN - Favv

54 Earth Report,

54 Earth Report, published in 2008, claimed that this number could be as high as 400-500 products worldwide (FOE, 2008). In reality, the current level of applications in the European food chain is at an elementary stage. There is a need to distinguish between those applications that exist and those that are commercialised, particularly in the EU and the US. Some examples of existing applications are antibacterials in packaging, such as plastic food containers for domestic use, and supplements like nano silver and nano co Q10. It is expected products will be increasingly available in the coming years. Nanoparticles naturally occurring in food While the common use of the term ‘nanotechnology’ may be new, food is naturally and traditionally made up of nanometre scale particles and humans have been exposed to nanometre scale particles since their existence. Food and drinking water naturally comprises particles in the nanometre scale. Humans inhale and ingest many millions of organic and inorganic nanoscale particles every day in their food and drinking water and it is estimated that people inhale around 10 million nanometre scale particles in every breath. Many traditional foods contain naturally occurring nanoparticles, such as protein structures, such as in the case in dairy products. CIAA and Emerging Technologies The application of nanotechnologies in the food industry itself is at an early stage. However, the Food industry supports the contribution nanotechnologies will bring to food products in order to confer consumer benefits, including: improving nutritional quality of foods, a longer shelf-life of fresh and processed products bringing better quality at end of shelf-life, and a better knowledge of storage history and potential safety issues (sensors).

With this in mind, it is likely that packaging applications will come first. Nanotechnology will contribute to the development of stronger, lighter and less wasteful packaging. Other potential benefits include: food safety improvements through the use of anti-microbial surface cleansers, a greater range of ‘Healthier option’ food choices, and better quality food by the improvement of flavour, texture, and appearance. In looking at nanotechnology applications, it is important to highlight the principle requirement for prior regulatory approval, without which no applications can be placed on the market. This requirement is to be based on a detailed set of guidelines for safety evaluation, and is expected to be developed by the EFSA. Clearly, innovation represents the key challenge for tomorrow for Europe’s food and drink industry. Innovation provides a window of opportunity, enabling the food and drink industry to move forward. It is central to meeting the major economic, social and environmental concerns of our time, making the industry more competitive. However, the industry in Europe currently spends only 0.37% of its expenditure on R&D, which is wholly insufficient. As an innovative and progressive industry, the food sector is interested in science-based research and developments, including the application of nanotechnologies. CIAA members, together with other stakeholders and academia, are therefore actively supporting and carrying out research in this area. The food industry is actively involved in the European Technology Platform Food4Life, which is run under the auspices of the CIAA (http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/food_quality/projects/171_en.html). In touching upon the benefits of nanotechnology in terms of R&D, one can foresee improved delivery systems of functional ingredients and movement from micro-encapsulation to nano-encapsulation. Nanotechnology will bring great benefits in the field of process engineering, enhancing surface coating and reducing bio-film development as well as nanofilters for water purification. 55

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