Nanotechnology in Food Processing and Safety

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Nanotechnology in Food Processing and Safety


The emergence of innovative materials with new properties always played a big role in the history of mankind. The field of science and technology called “nanotechnology” has appeared only recently (Jochen, Monika, & Stuttgart, 2013, p. 44). Nanotechnologies penetrate into all spheres of human activities. In this regard, the 21st century will be the century of nanoscience and nanotechnologies, which will define its face. The nanotechnologies are expected to transform the whole food industry, changing the ways of production, processing, packing, transportation and consumption of food (Suh, Suh, & Stucky, 2009, p. 28). The given term paper will discuss the nanotechnologies in food and safety, as well as its comparison with other novel technologies.

The Essence of Nanotechnologies in Food Processing

The term “nanotechnology” was invented by the professor of the Tokyo Scientific University Norio Taniguchi in 1974. According to Taniguchi, nanotechnology includes processing, division, association and deformation of separate atoms and molecules of a substance. At the same time, the size of the nanomechanism does not exceed one micron, or thousands of nanometers (Jochen et al., 2013, p. 45; Ravichandran, 2010, p. 73). At present, nanotechnologies include the methods which provide the possibility to controllably create and modify the objects, including the components with sizes less than 100 nanometers and having essentially new qualities that allow carrying out their integration into fully functioning systems of macroscale.

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The term “nanofood” means the use of nanoparticles is capable of the solvation of many real problems of a modern farmer, and also serving the emergence of unique goods (Saleh, Mohamed, & MohdAzhan, 2009, p. 14). Nanotechnologies have significant effects on the lives of consumers. Their influence became more obvious during the previous several years in connection with the organization of various conferences devoted to this subject. The influence of nanotechnologies finds its reflection in the continuous increase in the existence of nanoproducts available on the Internet (Saxena, Hardainiyan, & Nandy, 2015, p.1; (Suh et al., 2009, p. 30).

At present, the experts in the field of food technologies single out of five areas, where nanotechnologies are applied. These areas include the simple division of a product to nanoparticles, production of various Nano additives improving food, Nanofiltration for the improvement of the quality of products, biosensors for the quality control of foodstuff, food packing of a new generation in which products stay fresh longer, etc. (Fig. 2.) (Jochen et al., 2013, p. 46; (Paul & Dewangan, 2015, p. 9).

Nanomaterials and nanotechnologies received a wide application in the food industry in the field of membrane filtration. Applying the membranes on the basis of nanomaterials and using the difference of the osmotic pressure, there are machines used for the concoction of various food environments, purification of juice, milk, water, and air, desalting of seawater and other purposes (Ravichandran, 2010, p. 74). At present, there are two main directions of nanotechnology – the food chain axis and consumer axis.

Using membrane nanofiltration, there is the developed algorithm that is aimed at the change of the concentration of food environments which can be applied in the production of various foods. The design of filtration includes the ceramic filtering elements with the threshold of filtering between 5 and 200 nanometers, providing a high-quality filtration. The sizes of pores are selected, depending on the type of the initial environment, pressure, and temperature in it, its biochemical and physical characteristics. The application of the nanofiltration considerably simplifies the problem of preservation of the biological value of the obtained food (Saleh et al., 2009, p. 15).

Another direction of the use of nanofiltration technologies includes the use of filters with the nanoparticles of metals for the inhibition of the souring and fermentation processes. Such filters are able to provide the purification of juice, nectars, milk and other liquids (USFDA, 2015). There are special filtration installations for cleaning and stabilization of drinks, clarification, and purification of syrups, juices, and extracts. They consist of two-five filtration modules that are consistently connected in the cascade. Under pressure, the part of the liquid passes through a membrane and is removed from the installation. The applied ceramic membranes represent the selective layers of mesh structure from the super thin ceramic fibers connected with a substrate a ceramic sheaf (Saxena et al., 2015, p. 4).

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In the dairy industry, the nanofiltration allows allocating antibiotics, vitamins, proteins from milk and serum in the production of both traditional and Nano products. The scope of the application of nanofilters is very wide. The use of nanomembrane technologies of milk proteins for the fractionation of milk proteins when processing sub cheese serum into the high-quality substitute of fat is one of the examples (Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2722). When membrane filtration is combined with the thermal treatment of protein, it allows receiving the product with the milk taste. The sphere of its application is rather wide. Thus, it can be added to the milk intended for the development of cheeses, like the Gouda, containing 50% less fat than the usual one, but with the same saturated “fat” taste (Jochen et al., 2013, p. 48).

Nanotechnologies and Safety

Nanoparticles have a biological effect, including a toxic one, and often considerably different from the properties of the same substance in the form of continuous phases or macroscopic dispersions. Nanoparticles increase the chemical potential of substances on the interphase limit of a deep curvature (Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2728). Due to the small sizes and various forms, they have a big specific surface, high adsorptive activity, and high ability to accumulate. The existing methods of the risks assessment cannot be used for the assessment of food nanomaterials as the scientific data and research methods received for larger structures cannot be extrapolated to the Nano level (Dingman & Rehs, 2008, p. 48).

There are three levels of potential threats of nanomaterials to the human organisms:

1. A low level of potential threats (a low priority). The corresponding nanomaterial is estimated on the available indicators for the components, making it in a traditional form (macro disperse or in the form of continuous phases). There is no necessity to conduct researchers on the specific biological effect of components in the form of nanoparticles;

2. An average level of potential threats (average priority). The all-toxicological assessment of materials should be carried out;

3. A high level of potential threats (a high priority). Considering the fact that nanoparticles are the substances capable of penetrating through the biological membranes and barriers of an organism to be distributed on bodies and tissues, the complex special researches, including the testing of genotoxicity, mutagenicity, impact of nanomaterials on genomic (genes expression), a proteome and metabolome profile of an organism, immune toxicity, permeability of a barrier of a digestive tract, are necessary. Therefore, the non-standard approaches to the assessment of the action of nanodimensional structures are necessary.

The application of nanotechnologies in food processing can result in the considerable changes of gastrointestinal tract and anthropometrical indicators, decrease in working capacity and intellectual ability, immunodeficiency and development of alimentary diseases (USFDA, 2015). Considering that nanomaterials belong to the new types of materials and production, the assessment of their potential risks for human health and a condition of habitat is obligatory. The latest researches indicate the toxicity of nanomaterials, whereas their equivalent in the usual form in the same concentration is considered safe (Saxena et al., 2015, p. 7). The toxicity of nanomaterials is caused, first of all, by the development of oxidizing stress and damage of DNA that can lead to the development of the inflammatory reaction, apoptosis, and necrosis of a cell. There is also the existence of other mechanisms of toxicity of the nanomaterials connected with their damaging action on the cellular membranes and organelles, strengthening of the transport of potentially toxic components through the organism barriers, as well as an allergic action (Dingman & Rehs, 2008, p. 49; Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2729).

Nanotechnologies can be used for the improvement of the safety of foodstuff and the creation of the functional foodstuff. They are widely used in dietary supplements and sports drinks for the encapsulation of vitamins and minerals. In food, nanotechnologies are used for the elimination of harmful fats, doing food safer (Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2729). There are certain sprays containing the anti-microbic preparations which can be used for spraying the products to prolong their shelf life.

There are also researches aimed at the neutralization of the oil acid in milk, making it the means of combating cancer. A human organism absorbs this acid before it reaches the large guts. Another research states that fat properties can be changed with the application of nanotechnologies. The new nano fat products make people feel the satiation immediately after a meal, thus allowing people to avoid the problems with excessive weight (Saxena et al., 2015, p. 7; Dingman & Rehs, 2008, p. 48).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nanotechnologies

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) (2015), the changes made to life by the development of nanotechnologies are comparable with the consequences of the discovery of radioactivity or computer revolution. The changes in such a scale can bear not only positive but also the negative consequences. Nanotechnologies are revolutionary for the agriculture and food processing industries. Molecular robots will be capable of producing food, having replaced the agricultural plants and animals (USFDA, 2015). Among the advantages of the nanotechnologies in food processing industry, there are:

· Nano food products allow killing or decreasing the number of bacteria;

· Nanotechnologies improve the fast food industry, making the fast-food ingredients safer and tastier (Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2723).

· Nano foods contain the same nutritional value, taste and structure, as those prepared by the means of traditional technologies;

· Nano food allows to directly influence the human organism. The food will affect the most vulnerable human organ, thus allowing it to recover from illness or refill the necessary minerals or vitamins;

· Nanotechnologies in food processing industry possess a huge commercial potential. The tens of thousands of working places are created for highly qualified specialists – nanotechnologists (Ravichandran, 2010, p. 75);

Among the disadvantages of nanotechnologies in food processing industry there are:

· The products of nanotechnologies can cause injuries of brain, and, therefore, have to undergo full safety testing;

· Entering a human organism, nanoparticles are capable of damaging biomembranes, breaking the functions of biomolecules, including the molecules of genetic device of a cell and cellular organelles (mitochondrion), leading to the violation of regulatory processes and cells’ death. The mechanism of the impact of Nano-objects on the live structures is connected to the formation of free radicals, including perhydrates, and also with the emergence of nucleonic acids compounds. The effect for a live organism is shown in the emergence of inflammatory processes in separate bodies and tissues, as well as the decrease in immunity (Alfadul & Elneshwy, 2010, p. 2722).

· Nanoparticles can penetrate into a human organism through skin, leading to the potential unnatural interaction with the immune system. The nano producers should be responsible for food processing and marking, thus making their products safer;

· Toxicity increases with the reduction of sizes of particles. Toxicity can appear from nanoparticles, made of the materials, not toxic in a usual form.

Nanotechnologies versus Traditional Technologies

The prime purpose of food processing consists in the delay of the process of deterioration of food and extension of the possible periods of storage. Many processes, like, for example, conservation allow turning the perishable foods into foods, which steadily keep the nutritional value and safety for several years. The food processing industry pursues the goal to provide the consumers with safe and nutritious food and adopt the laws and standards for the food safety, based on the reliable scientific data. In relation to production, processing, packing and delivery of food, the traditional technologies allow making food safe and full of vitamins (Fig. 4.). The approach to food safety covers all food chains from a farm to a consumer’s table, and the effective process of the increase of consumers’ awareness about the problems of food safety (Pray & Yaktine, 2009).

The traditional technologies of food processing provide huge advantages from the point of view of existence, periods of storage, and safety of food. It is important to provide safe foods the countries, where the damage of products and other types of damages and deterioration create serious problems. Moreover, due to the fact that the processed products keep all of the nutritious properties for a long time, they often create the best opportunities for the satisfaction of needs of the countries having a chronic food deficiency (Ozimek et al., 2010, p. 405).

Unlike the traditional technologies of food processing, the application of nanotechnologies in food processing is limited, though the achievements and opening in the field have a strong potential (Pray & Yaktine, 2009). It concerns a number of important aspects, starting from the safety of food up to the molecular synthesis of new products and ingredients. The application of nanotechnology will give many advantages to the food processing sector due to the creation of new shades of taste, structures and feelings, reduction of use of fats, increase of comprehensibility of nutrients, improvement of the packing efficiency, control and safety of products.

New technologies are being widely applied in packing the foodstuff. They are the most perspective direction of the application of nanotechnologies in the food industry in the nearest future. The world-known corporations produce packing materials on the basis of nanotechnologies which promote the extension of shelf life of food and drinks and increase the safety of foodstuff (, 2010, p. 55). Despite the concern about the safety of introduction of nanotechnologies, the food industry rapidly moves forward to the Nano packing. Many companies and universities develop packing, which will warn when the packed food becomes unusable, react to the changes of environment’s conditions, and also to independently restore the integrity of packing at its small damages (Pray & Yaktine, 2009).

Nanotechnologies in Food Processing and Microwave Heating

There are a lot of novel technologies which make food processing industry easier, safer and tastier. Microwave heating is one of them. The heating of food products in the electromagnetic field differs from other types of heating due to heat conductivity or convection in the fact that the elements of the environment, dividing the generators of electromagnetic oscillations and objects of heating do not participate in the transfer of warmth (Shaheen, El-Massry, El-Ghorab, & Anjun, 2012, p. 8). Therefore, in the systems “generator – environment – object of heating”, the thermal stream is not continuous, and the energy is transferred in the form of electromagnetic oscillations. The warmth arises in the objects of heating at their interaction with the electromagnetic field (Bhattacharya, 2015, p. 7).

The effect of warming up the foodstuff in the super high-frequency (microwave oven) field is connected with the basic dielectric properties defined by behaviors in the field of dipoles. Dipoles (dipolar molecules and atoms) are found in water molecules (Shaheen et al., 2012, p. 9). The energy of external field spent for the dielectric polarization is turned into warmth, and warmth arises in all volumes of materials, not just on its surface. Therefore, microwave heating is often called “volume heating” (Bhattacharya, 2015, p. 130). The complex nature of interactions of the amount of emitted warmth and depth of penetration of the microwave field results in the need to select a product of certain thickness to avoid the overheating of its external and internal layers.

If compared to nanotechnologies in food processing industry, microwave heating has a number of advantages, such as a high speed of heating and its uniformity, owing to the heating volume, the preservation of vitamins and other irreplaceable nutrients of foodstuff, soft heating, step heating, creation of the set temperature unevenness that regulates the transmission of microwaves to a product, etc. (Shaheen et al., 2012, p. 13). However, unlike the nanotechnologies which open wider opportunities for the taste shadows of products, microwave heating possesses a number of disadvantages, like the absence of the tasty crackle and the impossibility to warm up a big portion of food. Therefore, microwave heating cedes to the nanotechnologies in the width of its application in food processing.

Case Study

The companies which doubted whether it is worth opening their research programs in the field of “Nano food” announce the public plans for the improvement of the existing products and development of the new ones for the retention of the dominating positions in the market in the modern rigid competition (Paul & Dewangan, 2015, p. 11). Due to the creation of the Nanotech Consortium in 2000, the world famous Kraft Company takes the leading position in the successful application of nanotechnologies in the food processing industry (O’Neil & Kruzsewski, 2010, p. 5). The attention of Kraft is directed to the “interactivity” of food and drinks. The idea of “interactive food” is based on the possibility to change the food characteristics in accordance with own tastes and preferences. The nanotechnology is based on the Nano capsules, containing the amplifiers of taste and color, or the added vitamins, which will remain in food in the idle state until they are released by a consumer. Kraft actively uses the nanotechnologies in the production of drinks, which change color and taste and the products which can distinguish and adapt to the allergies of the consumer or to the features of the needs for food (Saleh et al., 2009, p. 17). Moreover, the specialists of the Kraft Company develop a number of intellectual packing materials which absorb the oxygen, allowing the pathogenic microorganisms to grow, and also warn consumers about the spoiled foods. These smart packages will help to find such pathogens as a salmonella and coli bacillus, and are expected to be widely used within the next several years.

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All over the world, many countries have already determined the potential of nanotechnologies in the food processing sector and invest considerable funds into it. Various applications of nanotechnologies hide the huge potential of opportunities and growth for the industry of packing materials. The longer safety of products and a smaller quantity of wastes are among some advantages from which the industry, trade, and consumers will benefit.

The attentive studying of products available in the modern market of nanotechnologies or are at the stage of development allows drawing a conclusion that one of the main perspective directions of the application of nanotechnologies is based on the development of the new structures of food additives. The general approach to the work in this area consists of the development of carriers or materials, the sizes of which are estimated in nanometers, for the improvement of functional technical characteristics on food additives. The properties of nanoparticles also increase their appeal in respect of the improvement of assimilation and bioavailability of the additional nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Thus, the era of the nanotechnologies actively develops in all spheres of a human life, including food processing.

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