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Nanotechnology can be a great ally for food packaging. There are already improved materials which contain nanocomposites that enhance their qualities. Given all the advantages provided by this revolutionary approach, the FDA has taken a step forward by supporting the responsible development of this type of products.
Efficient packing materials oriented to preserve the qualities of food
This revolutionary technology comprises the study, design, creation, manipulation and application of materials at a nanoscale. It implies the use of very small particles that cannot be seen even with a normal microscope. When matter is manipulated at such level it is possible to alter its properties and transform it.
Nanotechnology has a wide potential of applications in many fields and industries. One of the improvements that can be achieved by means of the use of this approach is the enhancement of the qualities of the material used in food packaging. In other words, it can be used to produce active containers with lower polymer contents.
Such advance would decrease the weight of the container and therefore the final cost of the product. Additionally, the vessel would preserve efficiently its content given its antimicrobial capacities and the barrier against external factors like gases and light.
This optimization can be achieved by means of the incorporation of certain nanometer-sized particles into the polymers during the packaging process. The main advantage of the use of these particles is that they can reinforce the efficacy of the material by strengthening its qualities.
Benefits provided by intelligent technology to food industry
The use of nanotechnology in food packaging can have many purposes such as:
- The detection of pathogens and the identification of hygienic quality of the food.
- Biodegradable nanosensors that control the temperature and the humidity during the transport and storage of the products.
- Nanoparticles used as barrier materials that increase the impermeability of the packing material against external agents like oxygen, fungi or diverse varieties of microorganisms.
There are currently nanocomponents which have been approved for the manufacturing of packing material for groceries. That includes various silicon and silver materials, calcium carbonate, bentonite clay, nanosensors and nanopolymers to mention some. It is worth to mention that such elements must be subjected to an assessment in order to identify possible associated risks and therefore ensure food safety.
Bayer is producing a transparent plastic film that contains nanoparticles. They are distributed throughout the material in order to block the entrance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and moisture so they cannot reach the packed products. These units also make the container lighter, stronger and more resistant to high temperatures.
On the other hand, Kodak is using nanotechnology to produce antimicrobial containers for food and active packing material that absorbs oxygen preventing the decomposition of organic products.
If the food contains in its composition some kind of nanoparticles, the manufacturer must specify this fact in the label. At the present time there is still no agreement in regards to the definition of the term “nano” and in which cases the consumer should be informed of their use. However, since 2011 there are emerging regulations related to this topic.