Nanotechnology in the Food
Industry: A Short Review
What is the future of
nanotechnology in food?
The benefits of nanotechnology for the food in- dustry are many and are expected to grow with time. This new, rapidly developing technology impacts every aspect of the food system from cultivation to food production to processing,
packaging, transportation, shelf life and bioavailability
of nutrients. Commercial applications of nanomaterials
will continue to impact the food industry because of
their unique and novel properties. Human exposure to
nanomaterials, as a result, is increasing and will continue
to increase with time. Therefore, the health impact of
nanomaterials in food is of public interest and concern.
Public acceptance of food and food-related products
containing nanomaterials will depend on their safety.
Consequently, a uniform international regulatory framework for nanotechnology in food is necessary.
The National Nanotechnology Initiative in the U.S.
defines nanotechnology as the understanding and con-
trol of matter at a nanoscale where unique phenomena
enable novel applications. Nanomaterials are further de-
fined as substances between 1 and 100 nm in size show-
ing physical, chemical and biological properties that are
not found in bulk samples of the same material.1 Their
extremely small size and high surface area are associated
with their greater strength, stability and chemical and
biological activities. Therefore, nanotechnology enables
development of novel materials with a wide range of po-
tential applications. Nanomaterials are used in a variety
of consumer, medical, commercial and
industrial products.1 Because nanotech-
nology is an emerging, rapidly develop-
ing technology, very limited information
about it is currently available.
What food technologists and engineers are doing to improve the safety
of our food supply seems limited only
by one’s imagination, and nanotechnology opens the door to a whole new
array of products (Figure 1). Fresh fruits,
vegetables, meat and poultry products
are potential vehicles for the transmission of human pathogens leading to
foodborne disease outbreaks, 2 which
draw public attention to food safety.
Therefore, there is a need to develop
new antimicrobials to ensure food
safety. Because of the antimicrobial
properties of nanomaterials, nanotechnology offers great potential for novel
antimicrobial agents for the food and
food-related industries. The use of nano-antimicrobial agents added directly to
foods or through antimicrobial packaging is an effective approach. As a result,
the use of nanotechnology by the food
and food-related industries is expected
to increase, impacting the food system
at all stages from food production to
processing, packaging, transportation,
storage, security, safety and quality. 3, 4
Food Ingredients for Color, Texture
The food industry is beginning to use
nanotechnology to develop nanoscale
ingredients to improve color, texture
and flavor of food. 5, 6 The nanoparticles
TiO2 and SiO27, 8 and amorphous silica8, 9
are used as food additives. TiO2 is used
as a coloring in the powdered sugar
coating on doughnuts.
Food Production and Packaging
Nanomaterials used for food packaging provide many benefits such as
improved mechanical barriers, detection
of microbial contamination and poten-