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Posted: August 6, 2009
'Nanoscience in Food' event highlights benefits of using micro and nanotechnology in food and drink
(Nanowerk News) The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN), one of the UK’s primary knowledge-based networks for Micro and Nanotechnologies, held its third Nanotechnology in Food focus group event on Thursday 4th June at Leatherhead Food Research, Surrey. The one-day conference addressed the latest developments and advances in the applications of micro and nanotechnology (MNT) in food and drink and looked at global regulations and the opportunities and challenges in this area.
Nanotechnology is an emerging science envisaged to revolutionise the food and drink industry in terms of better food processing safety, improved product shelf life and more healthy products. The use of nanotechnology has already been introduced into the food and drink industry with successful applications in a number of key areas including stay fresh packaging, butters and slim-line milkshakes. The NanoKTN and Leatherhead Food Research both recognise the importance of a clear understanding of technology in this area and their Nanotechnology in Food focus group aims to promote communication and knowledge sharing amongst industry professionals and encourage further inward investment and interest into the UK market.
The conference included a presentation from Professor Ian Bruce from the Department of Bioscience at the University of Kent, who discussed the importance of increasing consumer trust and confidence in food safety and risk management, and suggested that improved interactions between stakeholders and management were needed. Professor Bruce proposed that involving the public in the risk management process would in turn offer them confidence in the products they consume, particularly those that involve ingested nano-particles. As Professor Bruce’s presentation highlighted, MNT is often an area people know little about and to gain public trust, the benefits of the products must be easily accessible to the public.”
The event was opened with a presentation by Dr Pretima Titoria, Joint Project Leader at Leatherhead Food Research, which looked at the driving forces supporting nanotechnology in the market, as well as the concerns and issues. Dr Titoria confirmed the importance of ensuring that nanotechnology advances in the food and drink market minimise any possible risks to ensure public and consumer interest and support remains strong.
“Nano-calcium enriched milk is one of a number of products already on the market using nanotechnology with positive effects,” explained Dr Pretima Titoria. “After just 18 weeks, there is a higher calcium content in urine and bone when drinking nanocalcium enriched milk, which can help to minimise osteoporosis in humans. Another recent EU funded research project developed micro and nano portable devices to detect toxins, pathogens and chemicals in food. Using these sensors, companies have been able to identify pesticides on fruit and vegetables and a device using DNA biochips has been able to determine the presence of harmful bacteria.”
“The use of MNT within the food and drinks market has always been a sensitive area that companies are not always willing to discuss. Because of this, the amount of information available to the public is not as great as it should be. However substantial research is being carried out in the market and as a result impressive benefits have already been seen,” explains Dr Keith Robson, Theme Manager at the NanoKTN.
The NanoKTN/Leatherhead Food Research Nanotechnology in Food focus group aims to promote current awareness of nanotechnology in the food sector and identify potential technology that will impact on the food industry. Through focus groups and seminars the NanoKTN and Leatherhead Food Research aim to identify, and seek to rectify, capability and skills gaps in the supply chain and facilitate the formation of industrial consortia to undertake competitive research.
Interest in the opportunities that nanotechnology has to offer to the food and drink industry is evident given the strong industrial turnout at the conference. Enthusiasm from delegates was in two particular areas – consideration of nanotechnology applications in packaging, and establishing a roadmap of nanotechnology for use in food and drink.
The NanoKTN/Leatherhead Food Research Nanotechnology in Food focus group will now take this forward and interested parties are being canvassed for the roadmapping exercise. Organisations with a strong interest in getting involved should contact the NanoKTN.