Producing better food with the help of nanotechnology

The RTL TV programme Toekomstmakers (‘Future makers’) recently dedicated a full episode to the possibilities that nanotechnology presents for food. Using nanotechnology, we could produce food that is ultimately better for people and animals alike. Yet food manufacturers are hesitant to harness the power of nanotechnology, even though, according to the Dutch Food Industry Federation (EFSA), products made using nanotechnology are safe. The broadcast also looked at nanotechnology innovations in the food industry, such as sensors that can calculate the exact freshness of a product and a company that is filtering ‘useless’ food products for reuse.

Toekomstmakers nanotechnologie en voedselResearcher Atze Jan van der Goot (Wageningen UR) uses nanotechnology for developing fake meat, a sustainable option.

Fake meat

Nanotechnology offers a perfect solution for people who are committed to a sustainable world but still want to eat meat. At Wageningen University, researchers are working on developing fake meat. Made from soy protein isolate (from soy), wheat gluten and a colouring agent, the ‘meat’ is shaped in a machine to give it a fibre-like quality, an essential characteristic of meat. On Toekomstmakers, Wageningen researcher Atze Jan van der Groot explained, ‘We are not making synthetic meat, but a meat replacement that resembles meat. Imitating the structure is difficult, because that structure goes down to the nanometre’. He also revealed that, ‘A kilogram of soy beans can be turned into three kilograms of replacement meat, but only one ounce of steak’.

Nanotech innovations in the food industry

The episode of Toekomstmakers looked at many more aspects of innovation in the world of food. Such as the pasteur sensor tag: a chip with various sensors and computer chips that can calculate the exact storage life of a product. And the byFlow: a 3D food printer that can turn discarded vegetables into edible food products. The episode also visited Bodec, a company in Helmond that uses nanotechnology to filter ‘useless’ food products so they can be reused.
Also featured were innovations such as ‘nanonaise’ – a mayonnaise that tastes just like regular mayonnaise but contains less fat thanks to nanotechnology. While the outside consists of fat, inside the nanonaise particles are filled with water. Since taste buds primarily experience the fatty outer layer, it tastes just like regular mayonnaise.