Even with the grand technological advancements that have come to dominate modern times, some of humanity’s concerns have remained the same since ancient times. Food is an essential part of our survival, and the conservation of food is a very important issue. Food packaging
has been designed to increase the shelf life of foodstuff so that it can be stored for more time. In an attempt to further improve this technology, the packaging has seen the implementation of nanoparticles.
This means that certain very small particles, like the silver or copper nanoparticle or some clay nanoparticles, have been mixed into the food packing material. This can be done for a number of reasons, and, categorized by the reason for the introduction of the nanoparticle, these types of packages can be split into 3 groups:
Improved Packaging, which will improve the barrier properties of the food package. This will allow for better and longer conservation of the food by letting in less gas and water from the air around.
Active Packaging, which is supposed to act as a barrier between food and different bacteria, in many cases harmful types. The silver nanoparticle is used more and more commonly for its antimicrobial properties.
Smart Packaging, which is more about adding a feature to a package. The nanoparticles can act as a warning, as an alarm system, detecting and signaling food that might have started to degrade and so on
The advantages of implanting this kind of technology are clear, in the sense that food can have a longer shelf life. Also, the foodstuff that has already begun to degrade can be spotted more easily, and the quality of the food can also be preserved for more time. But this technology does not stop here. We mentioned the fact that these nanoparticles can act as a barrier between the food and some different harmful bacteria that might infect it.
However, this technology can also be used to signal the presence of a popular harmful bacteria, protecting the consumer, enabling authorities to identify spoiled or infected batches of food more easily and to deal with them safely and efficiently, thus, reducing the number of gastro-alimentary infections. Another great thing about the implementation of this technology would be the use of fewer materials as food packaging
. In a period marked by high environmental damage, this comes as a very significant advantage. Furthermore, the use of nanoparticles might also bring a cost-efficient solution, helping producers to earn more, and possibly reducing the overall cost of food, while making the food industry less dependent on petroleum-based products.
There is also a darker side to the story. The migration of these nanoparticles from the packaging and into the food is not so easily determined, with many cases needing individual assessment. The exact toxicity of ingested nanoparticles for humans has yet to be decisively established. Before safely introducing this innovative and full of potential technology, more studies should be conducted, to make sure that in our rush to further improve our world, we do not run into any unpleasant secondary effects.