Metal-based nanomaterials in the food industry
- How does it work?
- What can it be used for?
- What can it not be used for?
- Related Facilities
- Further Information
|Key words||AgNPs, TIO2, metal, active packaging, minimal processing, biofilms, engineered nanoparticles, nanocomposites, ethylene|
How does it work?
|Working principle|| Nanotechnology is the study of phenomena and properties of materials taking place at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales. Most of the time these properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale. Following the European Commission recommendation , a nanomaterial is: “a natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50 % or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm. In specific cases and where warranted by concerns for the environment, health, safety or competitiveness the number size distribution threshold of 50 % may be replaced by a threshold between 1 and 50 %”.
To display its specific properties, nanocomposite material has to be inserted in a carrier in order to reduce the possibility to form agglomerates. For metallic-based nanocomposites, such as Ag, Cu, CuO, TiO2, ZnO, Pd and Fe, carriers can be polymers (PE, PVC, PLA, EVOH...), metals (stainless steel), silicates (glass, Zeolite...) and organic material (chitosan, cellulose). The variety of carriers gives the oportunity to modify packaging but also to modify working surfaces .
Oxidized silver nanoparticles (AgNP), already inserted in a carrier, interact with oxygen creating antimicrobial properties  by leakage of the cellular material due to the association of AgNP with the membrane . The optimal antimicrobial activity of AgNP is found for particles from 1 to 10 nm . Nano-sized TiO2 particles have UV-blocking as well as antimicrobial properties , dismishing the risk associated to biofilms being one of the most promising application in food products . Nano TiO2 particles have a size from 30 to 350 nm and their properties are related with their crystalline structure (tetragonal, orthorhombic) and their band gap .
|Additional effects||Even if it is a mature technology there is a concern on the risks associated with the migration of ions in food and drinks.|
|Important process parameters||The technology used to insert the nanoparticle in the carrier will determine the process parameters. These technologies are related to physical principles (for example UV irradiation or heat), chemical principles (reducing agents such as D-glucose, lactic acid, L-ascorbic acid…) or a combination of both.|
|Important product parameters||Metal-based nanoparticle ability to be traped in the carrier; size of the nanoparticles to show new physico-chemical properties; type of the carrier depending on application.|
What can it be used for?
|Products||Food packaging materials, working surfaces, water|
|Operations||Packaging (through insertion in the carrier)|
|Solutions for short comings||
What can it NOT be used for?
|Products||For metal-based nanocomposites applied to foods, metal migration levels need to be controlled (check legislation).|
|Operations||Depending on the nature of the compounds nanomaterial/carrier, all operations modifying the properties of the nanomaterial must be avoided (f.i. thermal operations). Thus, each nanomaterial application will have each specific restricted operations.|
|Risks or hazards||Although metals have been used in the food sector to isolate foodstuff from the environment, the use of nanoparticles can pose a problem of migration of ions and contamination of the food product.|
|Maturity||Some nanomaterial such as TiO2 are already in use in different EU countries, i.e. nano coating for Oxygen barrier.|
|Modularity /Implementation||Film including nanomaterial is produced by supplier. Food producer uses the film for packaging. Thus, implementation is similar to packaging systems using other kinds of films.|
|Consumer aspects||Athough nanoparticles are already used in the food industry, there are relevant concerns by consumers for the use of such materials [9,10,11]. Moreover, a recent study has reported that this technology is hardly understood or associated with food by costumers. Negative utilities (dislike or aversion were reported for nanotechnology, among other novel technologies. |
|Legal aspects||Concerning the use of nanoparticles, legislation is not fully developed. A study case-by-case approach must be implemented  through the pre-market approval system in food and feed legislation (novel foods, food additives, feed additives, plastic food contact materials, migration). Regulation (EC) No 258/97, Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 , Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003, Regulation (EC) No 4502/2009, Regulation (EC) No 10/2011.|
|Environmental aspects||Concerns over safety of nanotechnologies and its impact on the environment have already been raised by organisations as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The ETC Group and The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. |
Facilities that might be interesting for you
|Institutes||IRTA, CSIC - IATA|
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