Applications of Nanotechnology in the Packaging Industry

What is food packaging and its functions?

Packaging has been defined as the art, science and technology so as to prepare products for market. It can also be defined as presentation of product from raw to processed format by making use of paper, glass, plastic, aluminum and wood (Stampfli et al, 2010). It is the technology through which products are enclosed or protected for distribution, storage, sale and use. It refers to the process of designing, evaluating and production of packages (Coles et al, 2003). Packaging for food additionally provides protection from tampering. It also caters to the special physical, chemical or biological needs of the food. Further, packaging has a special function for the food as it bears nutritional facts label and other information about food (Paine and Paine, 2012).

Packaging provides several advantages for the food. It provides physical protection to the food. These include protecting them from shock, vibration, temperature and bacteria. The second function of packaging is barrier protection. A barrier from oxygen, water vapor, dust, is also required so as to extend the shelf life and keeping the contents clean, fresh as well as safe (Silvestre et al , 2011). Some packages are designed in a manner that they contain dessicants or oxygen absorbers. There is also maintenance of modified or controlled atmospheres in some of the food packages (Ebnesajjad, 2012). Information transmission is the third function of food packaging. It further allows for efficient handling of food followed by communicating information about how to use, transport, recycle, or dispose the package (Robertson, 2012).

Further, food packaging carries out the function of containment or agglomeration. Typical grouping of smaller items can be achieved in one package. This allows efficient handling. Containment of liquids, powders and granular materials is necessary. Moreover, packaging and labels provide assistance to the marketers in encouraging potential buyers to purchase the products (Arora and Padua, 2010). Package design has been considered to be a constantly evolving phenomenon. Food packaging is also essential for security concerns. An important role is played by packaging in reducing the security risks of shipment. Through packaging, tamper evident features can be incorporated which help in detecting tampering (Robertson, 2012)

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Furthermore, the risk of package pilferage can also be reduced with the help of specially engineered packaging. Packaging also provides authentication seals so that   it can be indicated that the package and its contents are not counterfeit. Various anti-theft devices such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, dye packs, or electronic article surveillance tags are also contained in food packaging. This helps in retail loss prevention (Rudel et al, 2011).

Rapid growth in food packaging industry

There has been considerable growth in the food packaging industry. There are a number of trends which are responsible for this growth. According to the data released by Future of Global Packaging, there has been a forecast that food packaging demands with reach an average growth rate of 3.4% by the year 2018. It has been valued to be around $284 billion (Packaging Market Reports, 2015). India and China have further been regarded as one of the fastest growing markets for consumer flexible packaging. They have been forecasted with a growth rate of 9.4% and 6.9% over a period of 2015–2020 (Smyth, 2015).

Increase in urbanization, development of more retail chains has increased the demand of innovative food packaging. There has been rise in the consumption of convenience foods. Customers demand features such as ease opening, portability and single use packaging (Srinivas, 2010). The aspects such as visual appeal and convenience also play a significant role in driving the growth of food packaging market. Paper, rigid and flexible plastic, metal and glass are the materials which were traditionally used in packaging food articles. Packaging is required for foods like dairy products, sauces, fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, bakery and confectionery products, meat etc. In order to preserve the quality and nutritional value of food items, there has been application of nanotechnology to food packaging.

Definition nanotechnology

Nanotechnology can be defined as engineering of functional systems at molecular level. It further refers to the projected ability of constructing items from bottom by making use of techniques and tools (Silvestre et al, 2011). It thereby led to creation of complete, high performance products.

The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiate (NNI) defines nanotechnology in the following manner. It refers to understanding and controlling matter at dimension in the range of 1 and 100 nanometers, where there starts a unique phenomenon thereby giving rise to novel applications (What is Nanotechnology, 2015). The area of nanotechnology further encompasses nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. There is further an involvement of imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at the given scale of length.

Nanotechnology offers a promising solution for improving the shelf life of food. In this regard, there has been a heavy use of nanomaterials in food packaging industry. It is majorly due to wide range of advanced functional properties that can be brought to the packaging materials (Imran et al. 2010). Until now the food packaging industry emphasized packaging foods in standard packing film made from flexible plastics. These led to a provision of protective, oxygen-free atmosphere. However, the food materials were still slightly permeable to oxygen and other gases (Nanotechnology in the Food Packaging Industry, 2015). This means that the protective atmosphere provided by flexible plastics may leak out thereby leading to entry of oxygen. This may cause damage to food. This is where nanotechnology shows its effect where a coating just a few nanometers thick can be considered as sufficient to create an impermeable layer (Neethirajan and Jayas, 2011). This may happen without compromising with the flexibility or leading to increased cost.

There has been slow and limited application of nanotechnology in the food industry. There are several concerns about the extent to which there are can be leaching of nanomaterials into the food. The effect of nanomaterials on the health of people is another concern in this area. Nanosilver, for instance, if enters the body in any quantity, may upset the balance of beneficial organisms that help in digestion (Rashidi and Khosravi-Darani, 2011). There are some concerns regarding the use and safety of nanofoods. The concerns make it important to demonstrate that the nanoparticles will be solubilized or digested in the gut. It also needs to be confirmed that free nanoparticles do not get entry into the blood (Huang, 2012). Engineered nanoparticles (ENP) additives have added to the issues associated with nanotechnology in the area of food packaging. This is because toxicological properties of most of ENPs are not yet known (Fulekar, 2010). Growing scientific evidence indicates that cellular barriers can be crossed by free nanoparticles. These may then reach to those targets in the human body where larger equivalents have not yet reached.

Application of biotechnology in food packaging industry

Biotechnology has led to the invention of intelligent packaging. Through it, different sensors in can be used in food packaging. These can indicate information about the quality of food to the customer. With the help of biotechnology, these sensors can be coupled with the biochemical reaction taking place inside the food. These help in indicating the deterioration of quality of food through reactions such as lipid oxidation. Another application of biotechnology in food packaging is use of gas indicators. They are another type of intelligent packaging option (Stampfli et al. 2010). Thermo chromic inks (changes color either with temperature or record highest temperatures) are another application of biotechnology in food packaging. These are sensitive to temperature and thus lead to improved packaging options for food. Moreover, biotechnology is used for developing food packaging materials which are completely biodegradable (Shimasaki, 2014). Further, biotechnology finds its application in developing packaging for food which is efficient at reducing spoilage. With the help of biotechnology, such plastic wraps could be created which help in preventing food from getting spoiled. These inhibit the growth of bacteria (Panesar and Maewaha, 2013). Plastics that prevent biofilm formation have been created by combining natural antibiotic substances and controlled- release biodegradable polymers.

Advantages of food packaging by nanotechnology

Reduced food wastage

 Intelligent packaging technology has provided innovative options for food packaging. Smart plastics which have been used for packaging foods indicate deterioration of food quality (Coles and Frewer, 2013). Avoidance of food waste is an important aspect of food chain. Intelligent packaging options involve the use of modified atmosphere package. This helps in significantly cutting down the amount of food wastage. This is because, smart packaging options help in reassuring the person that the food is still healthy to be consumed. These also indicate the part of food which is stale and needs to be discarded. In this way, application of nanotechnology helps in reducing food wastage.

Food safety - reduced food poisoning

There are many spoilage organisms which are aerobic, in order to stay alive, these require oxygen. Application of nanotechnology in food packaging has allowed for the development of modified atmosphere packaging. This type of packaging works by replacing the air in pre- packaged fresh foods with a mixture of gas (Bradley, 2011). This mixture is low in oxygen. This reduces the growth of microbes and helps in maintaining the color, texture and flavor of food. The mixture also contains high content of carbon dioxide. This slows down the growth of gram negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas and enterobacteria. In this manner, food safety is ensured.

Shelf life of food

Shelf life of food is define as the length of time for which it can be stored without becoming unfit for consumption (Stelle, 2004). It is the recommended maximum time for which fresh produce can be stored. Expiration dates provide guidance on the basis of normal and expected handling as well as exposure to temperature. The safety of a food is not ensured by expiration date. As long as the canned foods are not exposed to freezing temperatures or above 900C, they are safe to be used (Mahalik and Nambiar, 2010). 'Sell by date' is often referred to as expiration date. Even after the expiration date, most of the food items are still edible. Also, a production which has passed its shelf life may be safe for consumption. However, there is no guarantee of its quality. Shelf life is dependent on the gradation mechanism of product. It cannot be adequately regarded as an indicator of the time for which food can be safely stored.

Research gap

Various researches have carried out in this area. Duncan (2011) carried out a study on applications of nanotechnology in food safety. The author focused on barrier materials, antimicrobials and sensors. Further, discussion was done on the commercial status and understanding of health implications of these technologies (Duncan, 2011). Siegrist et al, (2008) conducted study on perceived risks and perceived benefits of different nanotechnology foods and food packaging. The authors examined the perceptions of people on 19 nanotechnology applications. It was found that nanotechnology food packaging was less problematic as compared to nanotechnology foods (Siegrist et al, 2008). Sozer and kokini (2009) studied applications of nanotechnology in food sector. The authors summarized the applications of nanotechnology which are relevant to food and nutraceuticals (Sozer and Kokini, 2009).

However, none of the research has focused particularly the application of nanotechnology to food packaging. Therefore a gap has been left by the previous researches. In order to fill this gap, the present research was carried out. Through this, the researcher focused on applications of nanotechnology in packaging of food.

What is the research issue?

The traditional food packaging industry makes use of multilayer structures so as to assist in providing different properties and functionalities to packaging. These multilayers are very expensive and are also difficult to recycle. Other than this there is also a presence of several issues in terms of providing foods a small shell life, lack of food safety and quality while packaging foods. There is also an issue of gas and water vapour permeability through the plastics that affect food.

Why is it an issue now?

At the present time the food industry spends around $84 billion a year on the area of food packaging.  Here, approximately 8% of price is spent on packaging of foods (EU Project Applies Nanotechnology to Food Packaging, 2015). Hence, there is a need to design packaging strategies that are both functional and cost effective in nature.

What could the research shed light on?

The present research will shed light on how nanotechnology can be used in food packaging industry. It will further asses the ways by which nanotechnology has brought a substantial improvement in the overall food packaging.

Aims and Objectives

Aim: The aim of the study is to analyze the applications of nanotechnology in food packaging.

Objectives: The objectives of the present dissertation are the following:

  • To study the concept of nanotechnology
  • To analyze the applications of nanotechnology in food packaging
  • Assess the potential risk to human health caused by nano-packaging materials.
  • To recommend ways to improve food packaging through the use of nanotechnology.

Limitations of research

There are various limitations that were faced by researcher while carrying out the present research on application of nanotechnology in food packaging. A quantitative design was not adopted for the present study. Failure to do so would significantly limit the ability of the study to make broader generalizations from the results (Structure, 2012). However, qualitative design did not reduce the quality of findings of the study. Moreover, the researcher was required to explore and describe the details of the ways in which nanotechnology is used in food packaging. This could be better done with a qualitative design. It also provided flexibility to the researcher as modifications could be done after the study began.

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Another limitation of the study was that primary data was not used. The present study about applications of nanotechnology was based on only secondary data collection methods. Due to this, the researcher may not have been able to collect the data which is tailored specifically for the purpose of the study. Also, it may be possible that the researcher missed on collecting recent data. This is because, primary data helps in gathering recent information about the research topic (Primary Research – Advantages, 2015). However, it can be critically analysed that secondary method was more suitable for accomplishing the purpose of present research. This is because, applications of nanotechnology is a sensitive topic due to the concerns of customers about the adverse impacts of nanomaterials that pass into the food from the package. Therefore, it may be possible that honest information could not have obtained from the respondents had the researcher collected primary data on it. Hence, secondary research was chosen for the present study which helped in looking into the aspects of application of nanotechnology in food packaging in a much more detailed manner.

For carrying out the research, limited time was available to the researcher. This could have limited the information that was referred to by the researcher. When a research is to be carried out, a number of interdependent activities are to be performed (Ihantola and Kihn, 2011). Data is to be collected, literature is read for carrying out critical analysis, findings are to be obtained and discussed etc. All these tasks require time so that the research can be conducted in an efficient manner. However, the researcher had limited time to undertake the present research on applications of nanotechnology in food packaging. But, efforts were made by the researcher to study the aspects related to applications of nanotechnology in detail.

Introduction to Nanotechnology

anotechnology has been applied to food packaging in a number of ways. It has provided convenient options of improving the shelf life of food. Nanotechnology plays an important role in bringing a wide range of advanced functional properties to packaging materials. It has helped in creating packaging materials and films that form a part of intelligent packaging. Nanotechnology applications in food sector comprise of smart packaging options which include biosensors, gas indicators, and thermo chromic inks etc. which help in indicating food spoilage (Coles and Frewer, 2013). Moreover, those packaging materials have been created which act as a barrier between food and external environment and help in preventing spoilage of edible items. Nanofilms, which are coating materials of just a few nanometer thickness, is another application of nanotechnology.

Food spoilage can be reduced by controlling the factors that lead to its deterioration. Food gets contaminated due to growth of micro-organisms and action of enzymes which are present inside the food. Microbial growth occurs only when the microorganisms get suitable temperature, moisture, air and ph. Therefore, food spoilage can be reduced if optimum growth conditions are not provided to the microbes (Bradley et al, 2011). Thermo chromic ink helps in providing optimal shelf life through an easily mixed two part ink system. This helps in communicating freshness as well as expiration of food item. There have been various innovations in nanotechnology with the use of gold and silver particles in packaging. In the present dissertation, literature review focuses on various applications of nanotechnology in food packaging. Various studies on the research topic have been critically analyzed.

Duncan (2011) carried out a study on applications of nanotechnology in food packaging and food safety. The author discussed several applications of nanomaterials in food packaging. Apart from covering the technical aspects of this topic, the author also focused upon understanding the current commercial status as well as the understanding of health implications of use of nanotechnology in food packaging (Duncan, 2011).

Alfadul and Elneshwy (2010) conducted a study on use of nanotechnology in food processing packaging and safety. The authors conducted a review and paid special attention to reflection on food quality and safety (Alfadul and Elneshwy, 2010). The journal articles used by the authors were up- to- date. However, no information has been provided about appraising the articles. This suggests that the quality of articles was not evaluated before using them.

Similar to this, Goyal and Goyal (2012) conducted a critical review to study the use of nanotechnology in food packaging. The authors studied about Nano-composite based edible material and their properties and applications. Further, legal and ethical barriers were also explored in the study (Goyal and Goyal, 2012).

Buzby (2010) carried out research on applications of nanotechnology for food. The authors addressed six questions about nanotechnology in their article. These questions were related to food applications of nanotechnology (Buzby, 2010). Aspects related to safety of nanotechnology for food application were discussed. Further, the authors explored potential environmental impacts and key marketing concerns regarding nanotechnology. The article contributed to developing a broader understanding about the issues associated with nanotechnology for food packaging.

Ravichandran (2010) explored the applications of nanotechnology in food and food processing. The article focused upon innovative green approaches, opportunities and uncertainties in the global market. The author explore areas such as nano-dispersion and nanocapsules. As per the findings of the study, nanosensors, which are placed in the packaging material, help in detecting spoilage (Ravichandran, 2010). Micro fluidic sensors have a major advantage of being small sized. Due to this, they can be used for detecting compounds of interest in only micro litres of sample volume. According to the study, novel food packaging is the most promising benefit that nanotechnology has offered. It was found that the nanotechnology industry is struggling with the concerns of public over safety. However, the food packaging industry has gained pace with the introduction of nanotechnology products.

Mishra et al., (2012) carried out research to provide overview of application of nanotechnology in food and dairy processing. As per the findings of the research, applications of nanotechnology in food packaging comprised of nanolaminates, nanocomposite bottles etc. Today, the customers demand a number of features in packaging of food products. They want the quality, freshness and safety of foods to be protected. According to the authors, nanotechnology uses microscopic particles and is an effective and affordable option (Mishra et al, 2012). One of the applications of nanotechnology in food packaging is that it can be designed to release antioxidants, enzymes and flavours in the food to extend its shelf life. The study found that nano-coatings are new innovation of nanotechnology. These are edible coatings and films which are recently being used as a packaging option for a variety of foods such as meats, vegetables, fruits, candies, bakery products etc. Further, novel laminate films can be created with the help of nanotechnology. These are suited to be used in food and dairy products (Mishra et al, 2012).

Reig et al. (2014) carried out research on nanomaterials. The authors made a classification of the latest advancements that have been made in the field of nanotechnology. Further, Multi Criteria Decision Analysis was done so that the most relevant nanomaterials in the area of food packaging (Reig et al, 2014).

Robinson (2011) carried out research on value chains and explored the governance and innovation involved in nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has been considered as a promising techno science which enable a vast array of products. The article provides an argument that it   important to move beyond the vast umbrella term of nanotechnology so that the governance challenges can be explored. The research focussed on investigating governance of nano applications in food packaging by analysing the industrial value chain. As per the views of author, this will not only help in identifying the activities but also the potential impacts of nanotechnology. In order to investigate the techno- specific promises that stem from nanotechnology, it is important to focus on value chain. Nanotechnology has entered into various parts of agri-food sector. Therefore it is important to explore the emerging governance arrangements of nanotechnology with respect to food packaging (Robinson, 2011).

U.V. Protection

According to Bradley et al., (2011), UV radiation proves to be damaging for certain groups of food, for example in initiating oxidative reactions in fat-rich foods and bleaching colour in certain fruit and vegetables. It can also affect the food adversely due to generation of free radicals. This happens on account of a variety of photochemical reactions. UV radiations lead to changes in flavor of citrus products. UV treatment also degrades beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C. UV light processing is a viable alternative that is used for reduction of levels of undesirable microorganisms in food products (Bradley et al., 2011).

There are various nanoparticles which have antimicrobial properties like titanium dioxide (TiO2). These particles have photocatalyzed antimicrobial activity. Due to this, these particles are only active in the presence of UV light. For example, there are some common food borne pathogens against which titanium dioxide particles have been found to be effective. These includes pathogens such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus, L. monocytogenes and Salmonella choleraesuis subsp. However, titanium dioxide articles are effective against these food borne pathogens only under UV illumination not in the dark. Ebnesajjad, (2012) found that additional benefit may be provided by food packaging films that contained titanium dioxide nanoparticles. This is concerned with protecting the food content from oxidizing effects of UV radiation (Ebnesajjad, 2012). Along with that, films containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles are efficient at maintaining good optical clarity. This is because TiO2 nanoparticles are effective short wavelength light absorbers and possess high photostability. Batt (2002) agreed that TiO2 particles become transparent but at the same time these also retain their characteristics of ultraviolet absorption. Due to these properties they can be applied for making transparent wraps, plastic containers or films.

Imran et al, (2010) reported that zinc oxide nanoparticles were useful when incorporated into plastic packaging. This is because they block UV rays and are capable of providing anti-bacterial protection (Imran et al. 2010). In addition they also improved the strength and stability of plastic film. Rudel et al., (2011) also confirmed that zinc oxide and magnesium oxide nanoparticles are not only affordable but also but also prove to be safer option for protecting food against UV radiation (Rudel et al., 2011). Moreover, these can be used for making transparent plastics thus adding the convenience. It not only enables the aspect of consumer inspection of the content but also locks out UV radiation. Therefore, quality aspects of the product are protected. 

Gas Barrier

As per the views of Siegrist et al. (2007), one of the most critical issues in food packaging is that no material is completely impermeable to atmospheric gases. In some applications, it is undesirable to have high barriers to diffusion of gases. For example, certain fresh fruits and vegetables need a continual supply of oxygen for enhancement of their shelf life (Siegrist et al, 2007). Oxygen is required by them so that there takes place sustained cellular respiration. However, it can be critically evaluated that the containers which are used for packaging carbonated beverages need to have high barriers for oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is essential for preventing oxidation and de-carbonation of beverage contents. But, Fulekar, (2010) found that there are some other products in which it is necessary to prevent migration of oxygen or water vapor as compared to the prevention of carbon dioxide (Fulekar, 2010). Srinivas et al, (2010) agreed that the demands on food packaging industry have increased due to the presence of these complexities. This is because food products require packaging which is not only sophisticated but also has packaging functions which are remarkably different (Srinivas et al. 2010).

There are a large number of interrelated factors which determine the permeability of a polymer to oxygen or moisture. These are, for example, hydrogen bonding characteristics, polydispersity, polymeric side chains and processing methodology (Mahalik and Nambiar, 2010). They also asserted that polymer nano-composites (PNCs) are the latest materials which are aimed at catering to the sophisticated demands of different food and beverage products with respect to diffusion of atmospheric gases. PNCs are manufactured through dispersion of an inert nanoscale filler throughout the polymeric matrix. These filler materials comprise of silicate and clay nano-platelets (Mahalik and Nambiar, 2010). The permeability of polymeric materials to atmospheric gases is dependent on the rate at which the gas molecules are adsorbed through the matrix. There are two ways in which nano size fillers in the polymer matrix impact the barrier properties. These create a tortuous path for diffusion of gases. This is because, the filler materials are impermeable inorganic crystals. This makes the gas molecules diffuse around them rather than taking a straight line path. Therefore, it can be said that tortuousity is the primary mechanism through which barrier properties of packaging materials are impacted by nano fillers (Neethirajan and Jayas, 2011). The second way through which nanoparticles act as a barrier to atmospheric gases is by causing changes in the polymer matrix art the interfacial regions. Favorable polymer- nanoparticle interactions lead to immobilization of polymer strands that are located in close proximity to each nanoparticle.

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Antimicrobial properties of packaging materials

There are a variety of advantages of edible antimicrobial coatings. These are developed so that the growth of micro-organisms can be reduced or inhibited. Antimicrobial food packaging is aimed at reducing surface contamination of processed and prepare foods such as sliced meats and sausages. Cooksey (2005) asserted that the area of antimicrobial packaging is based on enhancing safety as well as quality measures which are already used by food industry. There are several conditions which are considered when antimicrobial packaging system is designed. It is important to ascertain the regulatory status of antimicrobial agent. There are other microbial systems which rely on the diffusing or releasing antimicrobial agents.

In the situations when food cannot be consumed immediately after it is necessary that it should be packed in a material which protects it from pathogenic micro-organisms. According to Duncan (2011), there is a long history of silver being used as antimicrobial agent in storage of food and beverages. Silver nanoparticles act as potent agents against a number of bacterial species. Arora and Padua, (2010) carried out a study on migration of silver and copper from nano-composites. It was found that one of the most critical parameters in driving migration was the percentage of nano-fillers in the nano-composites. Nanotechnology, when used in the food packaging sector, makes it possible to modify the permeability of packaging material. It thus helps in developing active antimicrobial surfaces (Arora and Padua, 2010). Nanoscale materials emerged as novel agents for making antimicrobial surfaces due to their large surface area to volume ratio, physical and chemical properties. Antimicrobial properties of nanoparticles makes them efficient at increasing the shelf life pf food products and keeping it safe for consumption of humans. Lipid based nano- encapsulation is also used as nano-delivery system for antimicrobials. Bereka (2015) found that silver zeolites contain antimicrobial properties due to their ability to produce ROS which lead to cell death. Moreover, sustained microbial activity is shown by silver based nano-composites which is better suited for long term packaging of food (Bereka, 2015). 

Detection of spoilage agents

Nanotechnology which is the science of very small materials has had a big impact in food packaging. It possesses the potential of bringing improvements in quality and safety of food. Nanosensors are being worked upon which are targeted towards improvement in detection of pathogens in food system. Nanomaterials also have the capability to be used for making sensors which are capable of detecting very low levels of molecular signals of spoilage and food borne pathogens (Rudel et al. 2011). Nanosensors which are embedded in food packages will be capable of determining if the food has become stale due to action of spoilage agents. Nanosensors have various other applications in food storage with respect to detection of pathogens as spoilage agents. There are sensors for grain storage which conduct polymer nanoparticles. These respond to the analytes and volatiles in the food storage environments. Through this, detection of source and type of spoilage can be done. The advantage of this technology is that thousands of nanoparticles can be placed on a single sensor. These accurately detect the presence of fungi or insects in the packaged grains.

Further, nanosensors also help in provision of quality assurance by tracking micro-organisms. Nanosensors include those particles which are engineered at nanoscale. These particles attach to the pathogens and other contaminants of food. These are the selectively identified by fluorescence or magnetic devices. This provides the advantage of detecting a wide range of pathogenic micro-organisms with the help of just one sensor. Quantum dots are used as a fluorescent marker in the detection of E. coli. This is coupled with immune-magnetic separation. Another application of nanotechnology is the use of electronic nose (Huang, 2012). This is a device with the help of which different types of odors can be detected. It comprises of gas sensors which form the main content in the detection of spoilage of food. Poly (dimethyl siloxane) (PDMS) chips help in immune-sensing of Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB) in milk. Gold nano particle coated quartz crystal microbalance based DNA sensor helps in detection of E. coli. It can be analyzed that the use of nanoparticles improves the detection of pathogenic bacteria by amplifying the signals (Pannucci and Wilkin, 2011).

Further, microfluidics which are coupled with micro – motors, micro – arrays and micro – heaters help in generation pf low power consumption devices. These can be applied for detecting food pathogens. This is because these possess a very high degree of sensitivity and specificity (Rudel et al. 2011).


Nanotechnology has its application in detection of food spoilage caused by allergens. Some people exhibit allergic reactions after intake of food. These comprise of clinical symptoms which may be from mild to fatal reactions. Avoiding the intake of allergen contaminated food is the only way to prevent allergic reactions (Mahalik and Nambiar, 2010). Therefore, in order t protect those people, there is requirement of reliable product information. It is not easy to detect specific allergens. This is because they are present in limited amounts. Also, they are masked by the complex food matrix. Sensitive and reliable detection technologies are essential for food monitoring.  Nanosensors detect allergen proteins so that adverse reactions to foods such as peanuts, gluten etc. can be prevented. Liposome nano-vesicles have been discovered which help in detecting peanut allergen proteins. Biosensors are capable of coupling the advantages of optical fiber technology. It also uses a parameters for specific bio-recognition elements. With the help of biosensor, different food products can be accurately screened for presence of food allergens (Paine and Paine, 2012). Food allergy detection is an ever increasing challenge for food industry with respect to both social and economic impact. Biosensors detect allergens and can be embedded in clear packaging films.

Food applications of nanotechnology

The research questions of the study are relevant. These inquired about safety, potential impacts and key marketing concerns related to nanotechnology. These also pertain to the benefits of nanotechnology. The study added new information about applications of nanotechnology. It contributed to a broader understanding by consumers about issues related to nanotechnology for applications in food sector. These issues were openly discussed by authors with the use of balanced information and scientific findings. No information was provided about the study design. A well-developed study design is essential as it protects against bias. However, it can be critically evaluated that in this study the authors have not informed about study design. It is important for the researcher to assess key potential sources of bias. But, in the study by Buzby (2010), sources of bias have not been assessed which indicate towards weakness of the study.

Bias is defined as a systematic error that prevents researcher from considering a question in an unprejudiced manner (Pannucci and Wilkin, 2011). The quality of a research is judged by the degree to which bias was prevented by the researcher through proper implementation of study design. It can be critically analyzed that the article does not provide information about the degree to which the bias was prevented. This might have influenced the conclusion of the study. But, the conclusions that the author presents, are reasonable, on the basis of the accumulated data. The findings have been generalized by the author to broader contexts. While critically appraising an article, it is an important step to identify potential conflict of interest and the way it was managed. However, potential conflicts of interests have not been identified in this study.

Applications of nanotechnology in food processing

Studies carried out by Ravichandran (2010) explored applications of nanotechnology in food processing. The research question of the study addresses an important topic and adds to the information about the subject. The study informs about innovative green approaches, opportunities and uncertainties for global market with respect to nanotechnology. Various developments of nanotechnology were explored by the author. The study added some new information to what is already known about nanotechnology. The study provided information on nanodispersions and nanocapsules, association colloids, nanoemulsions, biopolymeric nanoparticles etc. In the area of packaging, the study provided important information about nanolaminates, food contact materials and nanosensors. Topics such as smart packaging and active packaging were discussed in details in the study. It also informed about use of clay nanoparticles for improving plastic packaging

The process of selecting appropriate and specific research question has a major bearing on the importance and relevance of findings. However, it can be critically evaluated that the study did not present a well-developed specific research question. But, it properly identified the parameter to be studied and the outcomes of interest pertaining to it. The present study was a review. This design is appropriate for the aspect that the researcher decided to study. It can be critically analyzed that the study methods did not address key potential sources of bias. This may have affected the precision of the study. However, the conclusion presented by the author was reasonable on the basis of the gathered data. Neither the statistically significant findings were overemphasized nor were large and potentially important differences dismissed. Conflicts of interest occur when personal the personal factors are capable of influencing professional roles and responsibilities. Therefore, while carrying out a research, it is important for the researcher to identify conflicts of interest and ways to deal with them. However, in the present study, these were not identified.

Governance and innovation in nanotechnology

The study conducted by Robinson (2011) explores value chain as a linking framework for examining governance and innovation in nanotechnology. It is necessary for a research article to address an important topic and add to the existing knowledge about the subject. The study by Robinson (2011) addresses an important topic, nanotechnology in the food packaging sector. Therefore, it can be said that the research question of the article is relevant. The study adds large amount of new information to the application of nanotechnology in food packaging sector. It examined nanotechnology by considering value chain as an entrance point. Further, the author discussed drivers and trends in food packaging innovation. Also, information has been provided on waste disposal policy and practice, recyclability and biodegradation. Type of research question indicates the optimal study design and impacts the findings. Article by Robinson (2011) poses research question about the application of nanotechnology in food packaging sector.

It can be analysed that the study poses a well-developed research question as it addresses two components; the studied parameter and outcomes of interest. Another significant aspect that is to be considered is the avoiding bias in the study. However, it can be critically evaluated that the study methods of the present article did not address potential sources of bias. This could have impacted the findings of the study and the ways in which they have been reported. The data gathered by the author justified the conclusion. However, it can be critically analysed that conflicts of interest have not been identified in the study.   Studies carried out by Ravichandran (2010) explored applications of nanotechnology in food processing. The research question of the study addresses an important topic and adds to the information about the subject. The study informs about innovative green approaches, opportunities and uncertainties for global market with respect to nanotechnology. Various developments of nanotechnology were explored by the author. The study added some new information to what is already known about nanotechnology. The study provided information on nanodispersions and nanocapsules, association colloids, nanoemulsions, biopolymeric nanoparticles etc. In the area of packaging, the study provided important information about nanolaminates, food contact materials and nanosensors. Topics such as smart packaging and active packaging were discussed in details in the study. It also informed about use of clay nanoparticles for improving plastic packaging. Applications of nanotechnology in food processing


After carrying out literature review, it can be discussed that nanotechnology has a number of applications for food packaging. The preferences of consumers regarding safe food have changed. This shift in preferences have led to the emergence of innovations in food packaging. The consumers wants that along with protecting the food, packaging should also be capable of developing a positive interaction of product, package and environment. In other words, the packaging should be capable of enhancing the shelf life of the product. In this regard, smart packaging is an application of nanotechnology which is equipped with sensory properties (Arora and Padua, 2010).  Smart packaging provides the advantage of enhancing the preservation of food. Nanotechnology has brought various advances in the field of food packaging which involve use of strategies such as addition of chemicals, removal of oxygen, moisture and temperature control etc. With the help of these applications of nanotechnology, it has become possible to delay oxidation in muscle foods, control migration of moisture, microbial growth etc. Moreover, modification of atmospheric concentration of gases inside the package is also done with the help of application of nanotechnology (Fulekar, 2010).

Apart from this, nanotechnology help in inventing those food package materials which lead to enhancement of various attributes of food products such as look, flavor, color, aroma etc. It was found that customers want that the food should look and taste the same as freshly made food.  Nanotechnology has led to invention of time- temperature indicators. Another application of nanotechnology in food packaging is colorimetric labels which communicate meat spoilage by changing their color in response to pH fluctuations. Similarly, fruit labeling tells about the freshness of fruits by responding to the aroma which is given off by them. Further, nanolaminates help in preparing edible coatings and films (Ebnesajjad, 2012).

As the world today has become increasingly obsessed with technology, the use of nanotechnology gains consumer acceptance to a considerable level. Moreover, having lived without nanotechnology for so long, the consumers would like to use it. Also, it is being accepted by consumers due to the additional functions that it performs. However, there are health concerns associated with nanomaterials which may migrate from packaging into the food (Rudel et al. 2011). This may decrease consumer acceptance for application of nanotechnology in food packaging. But, it may be accepted by consumers for certain products because nanotechnology helps in maintaining the color, texture and taste of edible items. Also, it helps the consumers in detecting freshness of food and its quality. In this way, nanotechnology brings convenience to the lives of customers. But, people are also concerned about the moral and ethical issues that arise due to use of nanotechnology in food packaging (Siegrist et al, 2007). With reduction of trust on nanotechnology, consumer acceptance may also decrease. Diverse cultures, values, traditions, perception of risks and benefits, perceived naturalness etc. also impact consumer acceptance for nanotechnology in food packaging.

Environmental groups such as Friends of Earth (FOE) have concerns over the use of nanotechnology for food packaging (Srinivas et al, 2010). This is because this environmental body found that edible nanocoating used for packaging food materials can lead to release of nanoscale antimicrobials, flavors, anti-oxidants and fragrances from packaging into food. This may be highly toxic and can lead to serious health problems. Apart from that, there are concerns over the ingested non- degradable nanoparticles which may result in long term pathological effects. Accumulation of non- degradable nanoparticles over time may result in development of nanopathologies such as cancer, granuloma, cancer etc. (Sozer and Kokini, 2009).

Use of nanotechnology in food packaging is governed by various legislations which help in checking the ill effects of it. The Food Standards Act 1999 and EC Regulation No 1935/2004 protect the health of the public as these check the food businesses and their activities (Srinivas 2010). These legislations compel the food businesses to ensure that the food sold by them does not include any substance which is toxic. Therefore, if nanotechnology poses harm to people's health, then it cannot be used for packaging as per this Act. In contrast this, EC Regulation No 1935/2004 establishes requirements that need to be fulfilled by businesses with respect to food packaging. Application of nanotechnology in food packaging sector will be strictly checked by this regulation as it requires that smart packaging technologies should not disguise problems related to food spoilage. Moreover, safety assessment of nanoparticles is made a priority by this regulation. Therefore, it has the potential to provide solutions for the concerns that consumers have regarding use of nanotechnology in food packaging sector. But, there is yet another barrier to this which is that the assessment measures are not suitable for nanomaterials.

Also the existing laws cannot be considered to be adequate for assessing and evaluating the risks that arise due to the use of nanotechnology in food packaging (Stampfli, Siegrist and Kastenholz, 2010). However, it is also true that there exist knowledge gaps which make it difficult to formulate effective regulation against management of nanomaterials and use of nanotechnology in food packaging. Approach of mass of material which is used for finding out the expected exposure rate of a product, is not suitable for nanomaterials. The reason is that toxicity of nanomaterials can be greater than per unit of mass. Along with the regulations, Food Standards Agency (FSA) also plays an important statutory role in the area of food packaging as it has the responsibility to protect the interests of consumers in the food and drink sector (Shimasaki, 2014). The outcomes of strategy formulated by FSA makes this organization work in all stages of food supply. These outcomes have a crucial place when discussing applications of nanotechnology in food packaging as they emphasize on establishing proportionate, effective and risk based regulation.

In this regard, it can be said that future trends in application of nanotechnology in food packaging sector will be directed towards bringing a more transparent approach. With the increase in awareness regarding impact of various nanoparticles on health, consumers expect a more responsible approach with respect to application of nanotechnology in food packaging. This suggests that future trends can be introduction of novel strategies that could check leaching of nanoparticles into food. These will be directed towards producing packages and materials that have stronger mechanical and thermal performance thereby capable of holding nanoparticles.


This chapter provides a summary of findings with regards to applications of nanotechnology in food packaging sector. Along with this, the conclusion chapter also reflected on the extent to which the research objectives have been met. The present dissertation contributes to a broader and deeper understanding of the application of nanotechnology in food packaging sector. Further, it also discusses the various aspects related to nanotechnology and its application in food packaging sector. Customer acceptance has been reviewed along with the role of legislations and Food Standards Agency. The aim of the research was to analyse applications of nanotechnology in food packaging. From the research, it can be concluded that nanotechnology has a number of applications for food packaging sector. However there are numerous concerns about risks of nanomaterials and their safety use in the context of human health.

Moreover, nanotechnology also promises to maintain the flavour, aroma, taste and colour of the packaged food to make it equivalent to freshly prepared food. Perishable food items such as fruits and vegetables can be efficiently packaged with the help of nanolaminates and nano coatings. Colorimetric labels are a novel application of nanotechnology. These labels are able to communicate the freshness of meat products by changing their colour. 'Ripsense' labels effectively inform about the freshness of fruits. Therefore, these applications have provided convenience to the customers by providing an easy visual method.

It can be concluded that nanotechnology has various useful applications in food packaging. It provides several distinctive and unique characteristics with respect to preserving food in better condition as compared to traditional packaging. However, despite great possibilities that exist for use of nanotechnology in food packaging, it is difficult to predict the future scenario. Although, the consumers are willing to replace simple traditional packaging with multifunctional intelligent packaging, but health concerns act as a barrier. Leaching of nanomaterials from packaging into the food products is the major concern. Other issues are related to ethical and moral concerns of people. But, it is evident that the packaging materials created by use of nanotechnology will be able to fulfil the requirements of preserving different types of food products such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, beverages etc.


Schwester, R. W., 2011. Handbook of Critical Incident Analysis. M.E. London: Sharpe. .  
Shimasaki, C., 2014. Biotechnology Entrepreneurship: Starting, Managing, and Leading Biotech Companies. Waltham: Academic Press.  
Siegrist, M., 2007. Public acceptance of nanotechnology foods and food packaging: The influence of affect and trust. Appetite.
Silvestre, C., Duraccio, D. and Cimmino, S., 2011. Food packaging based on polymer nanomaterials. Progress in Polymer Science.
Sorrentino, A., Giuliana G. and Vittoria V. 2007. Potential Perspectives of BioNanocomposites for Food Packaging Applications. Trends in Food Science & Technology.
Sozer, N. and Kokini, J. L., 2009. Nanotechnology and its applications in the food sector. Trends in biotechnology.                

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