Food production and its safety has been a major concern. Lots of food production gets wasted every year around the world as there are no adequate means and measures that can be taken to preserve them for long. But things are not same anymore, lot is changing under the cover.
Future technology is going to bring lot new and surprisingly very different technology for Food packaging. Have you ever heard about something called “electronic tongues” that is capable of “tasting” the products?
Have you heard about latest bacteria-battling nanoparticles, which are 50,000 times thinner than human hair? Believe me that is not all. Researchers today are working day and night to come out with hard to imagine but some revolutionary inventions. These inventions are coming out to existence at a speed you can’t imagine.
The following few technologies that I have listed out in this article will not only protect food from contamination but will also change the way entire food industry operates. These new technologies will bring changes that will affect almost everything around food we eat. Every new technology also paves new ways and brings all new players in the game. So, come let us explore what future holds for us in the field of food industry and don’t forget need is the mother of invention.
Get surprised – EDIBLE PACKAGING
Imagine, in the coming future not only we will eat our meals and after that instead of tossing the packaging in the trash or recycling bin, we will be able to eat that as well. Does that amaze you?
Believe it or not but that is what you might see out of the box in the near future. That’s what some industry experts are striving at. Recently a research team headed by Professor David Edwards at Harvard University produced several edible food containers. These food containers also known as WikiCells are not only edible but also quite tasty.
All the inspiration comes from how nature brings all its goodies packaged in its own edible membranes. Apple for example protects its matter with edible skin so does many other fruits grapes, pear most of them though not all of them. This might have inspired the inventors to come out with something like lemon juice in a lemon membrane and Orange juice is an Orange membrane or may be in a membrane of some other fruit for example pumpkin soup in spinach membrane, melted chocolate in a cherry membrane.
Using nanotechnology, a research team at Texas A&M University has developed what may possibly be the next food packaging miracle: micro-film. The material, which is thousands of times thinner than human hair, consists solely of water, a soluble polymer and 70% clay particles. While Jaime Grunlan, the associate professor who led the endeavor, asserts that the film is “basically dirt”, the packaging is significantly more eco-friendly than plastic, has the preservation qualities of glass and could hold the fizz in a soda better than anything currently out on the market.
Meanwhile, Bayer, the chemical and pharmaceutical company, has developed a plastic film called Durethan using clay nanoparticles that prevents oxygen, moisture and carbon dioxide from decomposing food products. Similarly, Nanocor, a nanoclay technology developer, has created nanocrystal-embedded plastic that prevents the escape of oxygen from beer bottles, significantly extending their shelf life up to 18 months. While companies such as Pepsico and McDonald’s are still wary of any negative associations elicited by the word “nanotechnology”, the food and beverage industry is looking on with rapt interest, hoping that researchers can get a handle on micro packaging and how to use it safely and effectively.
What if food packaging could tell consumers whether and when it’s good or bad to eat? A team of researchers at the University of Connecticut, Rutgers University and Kraft Foods are looking into something called the “electronic tongue”, an innovative technology that can effectively “taste” food through sensors embedded in the packaging. If the food is contaminated or spoiled, the packaging will change color, alerting the consumer whether it can still be cooked or needs to be thrown out. Similarly, scientists in Holland are creating smart packaging with a “release on command” insta-preservative that salvage food right before it goes bad. Even the U.S. military is looking into smart food packaging: for national security reasons, the military hopes that researchers successfully develop “super sensors” that detect whether or not food is contaminated.
Anti-microbial packaging does not just shield food from bacteria, it actively acts against it. An Israeli graduate student named Ronen Gottesman has produced “killer paper”, an anti-bacterial silver nanoparticle-coated paper that can fight to keep germs out of food. Gottesman said, “The smaller the size of the particles, the more effective they are against bacteria.” Similarly, Kodak (yes, the camera company) is generating anti-microbial packaging that can absorb oxygen and keep food fresh.
WATER SOLUBLE PACKAGING
MonoSol, a U.S. water soluble product manufacturing company, has created Vivos edible delivery systems, which are, essentially, food pouches that dissolve in water. The plastic film packaging, which dissolves faster under hot water, supposedly cannot be tasted when eaten. MonoSol claims its product is convenient for on-the-go consumers and could be used to package such liquid-friendly fare as drink powders, cereals, soups and sauces. While MonoSol contends they are fielding interest from multinationals, the technology would need to be customized to each individual product and currently still requires secondary packaging to protect against contamination. Truly groundbreaking or commercially unfeasible? Only time will tell.
SELF-COOLING, SELF-HEATING PACKAGING
How about self-cooling and self-heating packaging? Looks like a fantasy and might look far from reality. Though, consumers and researchers have desired for packaging technology that is capable of self-cooling and self-heating food and beverages. Two recent innovations aim to change that. While Joseph Company International launched the Chill Can last year without too much global fanfare, the 19-years-in-the-making, EPA Stratospheric Award-winning “Microcool” technology adsorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is released when the activation button is pressed, causing the liquid inside the can to drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes. Similarly, HeatGenie and Crown Holdings have developed a self-heating component called HeatGenie which can heat a product to 145 degrees Fahrenheit in two minutes and is to be embedded at the bottom of a product’s packaging.
Scientists and researchers are working all the time to bring out the best in technology all the time. In the field of food packaging probably is going to be most revolutionary and helpful to the man kind.