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Nanotechnology  And Food: FDA Speaks Out. Will Industry Act To Avoid The PR Mistakes Made In Introducing GMOs To The General Public?

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 24, 2012

During the course of my father’s battle with pancreatic cancer, I constantly came across references to the future use of nanotechnology in medicine. From nanoparticles specially engineered to deliver chemotherapy to nanobots that would one day give us virtual immortality by constantly keeping our bodies in repair, nanotechnology promises to change the world as we know it.

It may also change the food supply — both food itself and food packaging. This technical piece, Nanotechnology and its applications in the food sector, gives a heads-up:

Nanoscience and nanotechnology are new frontiers of this century. Their applications to the agriculture and food sector are relatively recent compared with their use in drug delivery and pharmaceuticals. Smart delivery of nutrients, bioseparation of proteins, rapid sampling of biological and chemical contaminants and nanoencapsulation of nutraceuticals are some of the emerging topics of nanotechnology for food and agriculture.

Advances in technologies, such as DNA microarrays, microelectromechanical systems and microfluidics, will enable the realization of the potential of nanotechnology for food applications. In this review, we intended to summarize the applications of nanotechnology relevant to food and nutraceuticals together with identifying the outstanding challenges…

Nanotechnology is becoming increasingly important for the food sector. Promising results and applications are already being developed in the areas of food packaging and food safety. The incorporation of nanomaterials into food packaging is expected to improve the barrier properties of packaging materials and should thereby help to reduce the use of valuable raw materials and the generation of waste. Edible nanolaminates could find applications in fresh fruits and vegetables, bakery products and confectionery, where they might protect the food from moisture, lipids, gases, off-flavors and odors

One of the top areas of research is the development of nanosensors, which would be placed in packaging and would detect microorganisms including pathogens. Forget test-and-hold — these products would monitor the produce continuously until it is consumed. Every fresh-cut company of size should have R&D efforts focused in this area. One wonders if the Center for Produce Safety couldn’t fund some research to accelerate applications in this area,

The FDA sees the future as well, and so it has issued some draft guidance: Assessing the Effects of Significant Manufacturing Process Changes, Including Emerging Technologies, on the Safety and Regulatory Status of Food Ingredients and Food Contact Substances, Including Food Ingredients that are Color Additives.  

FDA also issued a fact sheet. The gist is that nanotechnology may require additional regulatory review than the “traditionally recognized as safe” standard that food has traditionally enjoyed.

The chemical and food industries pretty much botched the introduction of genetically modified foods. Let us see if they can do a better job with this important technology.

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