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Nanotechnology in Food

Nanotechnology is employed in food science to develop several products, from how crop is grown to how food is packaged. Companies are developing and using nanomaterials that will make a difference not only in the taste of food, but also in food safety, and the health benefits. In making lightweight bottles, cartons and packaging films, nano clay composites are being used to provide an impermeable barrier to gasses such as oxygen or carbon dioxide. Storage bins are being produced using plastics embedded with silver nanoparticles to kill bacteria from any material that was previously stored in the bins, minimizing health risks from harmful bacteria. Nanoparticles are being developed to deliver vitamins or other nutrients in food and beverages without affecting the taste or appearance. These nanoparticles encapsulate the nutrients and carry them through the stomach into the bloodstream. Researchers are using silicate nanoparticles to provide a barrier to gasses, or moisture in a plastic film used for packaging to reduce food spoiling or drying out. Zinc oxide nanoparticles are incorporated into plastic packaging to arrest UV rays providing anti bacterial protection and improve the strength and stability of the plastic film.

Nanosensors are being developed to detect bacteria and other contaminates, such as salmonella at a packaging plant. This will allow for frequent testing at a much lower cost than sending samples to a lab for analysis. This point-of-packaging testing, if conducted properly, has the potential to dramatically reduce the chance of contaminated food reaching grocery store shelves. Research is also being conducted to develop nanocapsules containing nutrients that would be released when nanosensors detect a vitamin deficiency in the human body. Basically this research could result in a super vitamin storage system in the body that delivers the nutrients needed. Interactive foods have been developed for choosing the desired flavor and color. Nanocapsules that contain flavor or color enhancers are embedded in the food; inert until a hungry consumer triggers them.

Researchers are also working on pesticides encapsulated in nanoparticles that release pesticide within an insect's stomach, minimizing the contamination of plants themselves. Another development being persued is a network of nanosensors and dispensers can be used throughout a farm field to recognize when a plant needs nutrients or water, before there is any sign that the plant is deficient. The dispensers then release fertilizer, nutrients, or water as needed, optimizing the growth of each plant in the field.

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