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Use of Nanotechnology in the field of Food Science in India and abroad

What is nanotechnology, its applications in food science and also the safety concerns related with it. Apart from it it will also tell about how it can be applied in food preservation.

Nowadays Nanotechnology is found everywhere in modern world. It is becoming an important part of our life day by day. This technology was already there earlier, but there was not much research done on it. Now science has become so advanced that this technology has got a new direction. And now, it is being said that the upcoming technique will be on nano technology. The nanotechnology is now being used in our daily life. It is used in various fields like medicine, machinery, food science and much more. Let’s find out what this technology is all about.

What is Nano Technology?

The Nano word is a Greek word which means short, small or subtle. The nano is a substance that is made of subtle elements. This technology is the engineering of atoms and molecules and it combines many subjects altogether like Chemistry, Physics, Bio Bioinformatics and Biotechnology. It means that this technology is an Applied Science which can work on smaller particles than 100 nanometers. With the help of this technology, revolutionary changes can be made in many fields like medical, electronics, bioscience, food science and much more. Because this technology can make any product light and trustworthy. This is the reason that this technology is gearing up very fast in the modern world. This technology benefits the machinery by increasing the life of the machine and its low fuel consumption. This technology can make any mobile or machine as small as our finger nail. Many miracles can be possible with this technology from medicine to machinery.

Applications of Nano Technology in Food Science

Recent innovations of nano technology has transformed many fields including food science. Let’s find out the applications of Nano technology in the Food Science.

1. Food Processing

food processing, nano food

The Nano technology is used in food science in many ways. There are Nano-capsules to improve the bio-availability of neutraceuticals in standard ingredients like cooking oils. The Nano encapsulated to enhance the flavors in food. The Nano particles and nanotubes used as gelatin and viscosifying agents. The Nano-capsule used as an infusion of plant based steroids to replace the meat’s cholesterol. The Nano particles are used to selectively bind and remove the chemicals or pathogens from food. The Nano-emulsions and particles are used for better availability and dispersion of nutrients.

2. Food Packaging

fruits and vegetables in packing
Fruits and Vegetables in Packing

The Nano technology is used in the food packaging field too. The antibodies are attached to fluorescent nano-particles detect chemicals or food-borne pathogens. The Biodegradable nano-sensors are used in food packaging for temperature, moisture and time monitoring. The Nanoclays and Nano-films as barrier materials is used to prevent spoilage and prevent oxygen absorption. The Electrochemical nano-sensors are used to detect ethylene. The Antimicrobial and Anti fungal surface coatings are made with nano-particles (silver, magnesium, zinc). The lighter, stronger and more heat resistant films are made with silicate nano particles. It is used as a modified permeation behavior of foils.

3. Supplements

Supplements

The nanotechnology is used in food supplements too. The Nano-size powders are used to increase the absorption of nutrients. The Cellulose non-crystal composites are used as drug carriers. The Nano-encapsulation of neutraceuticals are used for better absorption, better stability or targeted delivery. The nanocochleates (coiled nano-particles) are used to deliver nutrients more effectively to cells without affecting the taste or color of food. The vitamin sprays dispersing active molecules into nano-droplets are used for better absorption.

4. Agriculture

Agricultural land, nanotechnology

The Nano technology is used in agriculture too. The single molecule detection is used to determine enzyme/ substrate interactions. The Nano-capsules are used for delivery of pesticides, fertilizers and other agrichemicals more efficiently. It is used as delivery of growth hormones in a controlled fashion. The Nano-sensors are used for monitoring soil conditions and crop growth. The Nano-chips are used for identity preservation and tracking. The Nano sensors are used for detection of animal and plant pathogens. The Nano-capsules are used to deliver the vaccines. The Nano particles are used to deliver DNA to plants( targeted genetic engineering).

Safety Concerns of Food technology in the Food Science:-

The Nano Technology is gearing up rapidly in all the fields and it will be affected in our daily life. Food Science is the biggest industry to be affected by nanotechnology. Because of some unique characteristics of nano-structures and nano-materials, there are some concerns about the harmful effects of use nano-materials on our health and environment. Let’s find out the possible side-effects of nanotechnology on safety, human exposure and the environment.

1. Food Production:-

Nano technology can improve the effectiveness of fertilizers and pesticides to improve crop yields. The Nutrition delivery or genetic manipulation of nano-structure of animals and plants may improve farming yields. While new Nano-materials can help farmers to reach their goals, but can make adverse effects on human health and the environment.

2. Food Processing:-

In modern life, people are looking more nutritional supplements because many nutrients in food are destroyed in the digestive tract. There are many factors that affect the absorption of food in body for infants, children, elders and those who are suffering from gastrointestinal diseases. Now the conventional methods for processing foods are being replaced by new techniques. In food processing, the new techniques will decrease the waste or spoilage of nutrients. For preventing harmful effects on human health, the nutrition delivery system should be made with biodegradable materials.

3. Food packaging:-

In conventional food packaging, Non- biodegradable materials like plastics have been used. But now biodegradable, degradable and smart packaging that contains sensors and nano-composites or edible packaging by using lipids, proteins, polysaccharides are present in food packaging. But there are some major problems that are faced by Biodegradable and edible packaging that includes poor mechanical properties, humidity, gas and low degradation temperatures that prevents expansion.

Food packaging must be made with inert materials for hygienic reasons but there are some active and smart materials have also been marketed in recent times. Antibacterials, Enzymes and absorbent materials can increase shelf life and improve storage conditions. Zinc oxide, Manganese oxide and silver nano-particles are active particles in anti- microbial properties for packaging. Carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, Gold nano-structures and other active nano-structures can be used as sensors of microbes or other tests for food safety.

4. Water Purification:-

In developing countries, to get clean drinking water is a problem. Challenges regarding water purification have attracted many scientists who use nano-membrane technologies that use materials like carbon nanotubes. This material is considered high risk for human health and the environment. To remove toxins or microorganisms from the water, nano-structures are used. It is not safe to use nanotechnology in this field. There are some challenges and risks that should be considered. There are some nano-structures which are used majorly like fullerene and carbon nano-structures. It is claimed that after purification of water, particles in the water give harmful effects on human health and the environment.

5. Nano particle’s toxicity measurements:-

Nano-materials have some unique characteristics like high surface area that make them more chemically active so they can participate in most of biological reaction that can affect human health and the environment. Nano-structures in nutrition or food industry should not affect human health directly or indirectly. There are some features of nano-particles that can cause side effects which is given as follows:-

1. Surface Structure:-

Roughness, charge, hydrophobicity and surface chemistry are the factors that can change the toxicological effects of absorbed nano-particles in the human body. Coating of hydrophilic polymer like polyethylene glycol on nano-particles can decrease the toxic effects of bare particles. It is considered that positively charged nano-particles are more toxic than negative nano-particles.

2. Solubility:-

Solubility is an important feature in the toxicity of nano-particles. For example: – soluble titanium oxide nano-particles are more toxic than an insoluble titanium oxide nano-particles. So all the factors that are related to toxicity and environmental activity of nano-particles should be investigated.

3. Size:-

The size is an important feature which determines the surface area of nano-particles. Its effect is shown in respiratory response. The absorbed nano-particles can trigger an immune system response. The small size of the particles allows them to pass through different biological barriers and set in tissues like central nervous system. The size of the nano-particles in different route of exposure should be considered in food related industries.

4. Chemical Composition:-

While producing nano-particles many reagents are used that can be toxic. Some settle in the final product and result in exposure to toxins. The toxic effects of carbon nanotubes and semiconductor nano-particles that are related to residual reagents during synthesis. The remaining reagents or impurities may cause side effects of carbon nanotubes.

Nano Technology in Food Preservation:-

Methods of Food Packaging are used for the quality of the food. They are packaged in a way so that it is safe to consume. Antimicrobial, High barrier plastics and detection measures for contaminants are some methods that need attention while food packaging. There are some nano techniques that are applied while food preservation and packaging.

1. Nano-sensors:- Nano-sensors help in detecting any change in the color of food and helps in detecting any gas being produced during spoilage.

2. Nano-composites:- Nano-composites helps in keeping the food products fresh for a sustainable amount of time.

3. Nano-particles:- Nano-particles helps in improving the food color, flow property and stability.