Tadepalligudum (Andhra Pradesh): Researchers at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Andhra Pradesh, in collaboration with other Institutes, have demonstrated how the concept of nanotechnology can be used to develop food packaging materials that enhance the shelf-life, maintain quality, retain flavor and color of packed food materials, according to a press statement.
Nanotechnology is an emerging area of research as its application is growing in various sectors, including food and agriculture, due to their wide physical, chemical, and biological properties which are functionalized with several biomolecules to enhance the properties of packing and storage materials.
The applications of nanotechnology at the global level are estimated to be around US$ 3 Trillion.
Nanoparticle-based materials offer a greater advantage over conventional and non-biodegradable packing materials by enhancing the functional properties of foods such as bio-availability, taste, texture, flavor, and shelf-life.
Additionally, nanomaterials in the form of sensors can be employed to maintain the temperature, detect pathogens, pesticides, toxins, and other chemicals in packed foods.
Dr. Tingirikari Jagan Mohan Rao, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biotechnology of NIT Andhra Pradesh, said, “The research emphasizes the role of nanoparticles to provide mechanical stability to packing material and shows how the nano-sensors can be developed to detect pathogens, contamination, pesticides, and allergens and enhances the antimicrobial properties of packing material to prevent food spoilage and contamination.”
Explaining further, he said, “In addition to this, the role of inorganic nanoparticles in food preservation is to increase shelf-life and release of antioxidants protecting the food from harmful ultraviolet radiations.
“The research also discusses the food safety aspects related to nanomaterials and follows eco–friendly practices such as proper labeling on the food items, following safety regulation for disposal, to perform cytotoxic studies on humans and animals.”
The research also discusses the role of various government agencies in addressing the safety issues, bringing the legislation and regulations on the use and application of nanomaterials.
It highlights how bio-based polymers can be blended with nanoparticles to make more efficient and effective packing materials.
In their research paper, the researchers explained how confidence can be built among the consumers by maintaining transparency in evaluating the effects of nanoparticles on humans and the surrounding environment and accentuated how researchers and industries should develop products that can easily get public acceptance.
If the safety and security issues get addressed, nanotechnology will revolutionize the food processing and packaging industry to a great extent and minimize food wastage.