IFT First International Food Nanoscience Conference

June 28, 2006

June 28-29, 2006
Orlando, Fla.

Betty Bugusu1, Ph.D., Cory Bryant1, Ph.D., Theodore T. Cartwright1, Hongda Chen2, Ph.D., Jolanda M. Schavemaker3, Sarah Davis1, Karen Hunter2, Joseph Irudayaraj4, Ph.D., Amar Mohanty5, Ph.D., Carmen Moraru6, Ph.D., and Jochen Weiss7,Ph.D.

1. Institute of Food Technologists
2. Cooperative Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
3. The Royal Netherlands Embassy
4. Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Purdue University,
5. School of Packaging, Michigan State University
6. Department of Food Science University
7. Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts

For questions about these presentations, please write to Betty Bugusu at bbugusu@ift.org.

Content

1. Introduction
1.1 Conference objectives
1.2 Conference Structure
1.3 Keynote Addresses

2. Worldwide Research and Development in Food Nanotechnology

2.1. Nanotechnology in the United States
2.2. Nanotechnology in Japan
2.3. Nanotechnology in the Netherlands
2.4. Nanotechnology in Canada
2.5. Nanotechnology in New Zealand

3. Societal Considerations for Food Nanotechnology

3.1. Nanotechnology and Society
3.2. Toxicological Impacts of Nanotechnology
3.3 Green Nanotechnology for Food Packaging
3.4. Nanoscience Education

4. Nanotechnology Research for Agriculture and Food Systems in USA

5. Potential Applications for Food Nanotechnology

5.1. Improving Food Safety, Biosecurity, and Product Traceability
5.2. Better Nutrient Delivery Mechanisms in Food
5.3. Nanomaterials to Enhance Packaging Performance
5.4. Implications of Nanotechnology for Food Processing

6. Research Needs Identified

6.1. Fundamental Knowledge
6.2. Instrumentation, Characterization and Standards
6.3. Sensors and Sensing Devices and Systems
6.4. Product Development
6.5. Nutrition and Health Research
6.6. Environmental Research
6.7. Safety, Ethics and Regulatory Issues
6.8. Education and Communication

Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), in collaboration with the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and The Royal Netherlands Embassy, held the 1st International Food Nanotechnology Conference on June 28-29, 2006 in Orlando, Florida.  About 150 scientists from twelve countries attended the conference.

Nanoscale science, engineering and technology, frequently referred to as nanotechnology for brevity, is about the emerging capability to image, model, control, and manipulate matter at dimensions of roughly 1-100 nanometers, where novel interfacial phenomena lead to new properties and functionalities. This exceptional ability has attracted tremendous interests from governments and industries worldwide and already resulted in numerous novel discoveries which may lead to a vast array of applications--a few of them already commercialized. Nanoscale science will likely impact virtually every aspect of science, technology, industry, economy, the environment, and human lives.

Although the knowledge base for nanoscale science and technology has greatly increased in the past several years, applications for foods are still at the infancy stage. Thus, this conference was organized to examine what we know today and use that knowledge to envision how we can benefit humanity through better and safer foods.

1.1. Conference Objectives

The objectives of the conference were:

1) To survey the current state of the art of nanoscale science and technology research and its applications in agriculture and food systems; 2) To examine broad societal issues such as education and workforce training, environmental implications, and safety, ethical, legal and economic considerations toward development and deployment of nanoscience in food and agriculture; 3) To envision the challenges and opportunities that advancements in nanoscale science and technology may bring about to further enhance food quality, value, safety and biosecurity; and 4) To stimulate the food science community to engage in the study and exploration of nanoscience and its applications in the food industry.

1.2. Conference Structure

The conference was structured to allow ample opportunity for participants to share knowledge and openly express ideas and opinions. The presentations included keynote speeches on national strategic roadmaps, overviews of nanoscience R&D from several leading countries, and plenary sessions on important societal considerations. In addition, technical progress reports of research and educational curriculum development projects conducted in the States that are supported by USDA/CSREES were featured. Break-out and Q&A sessions were used as a forum to seek broad inputs on the visions, opportunities, challenges, knowledge gaps, and action courses for the future of food nanotechnology from the participants. The break-out sessions were designed based on the potential areas of application in food including: food safety, security and defense; nutrient delivery mechanisms; food packaging; and food processing. This report summarizes the conference proceedings, discussions from the break-out sessions, and research needs identified.

1.3. Keynote Addresses

In his opening keynote address entitled “Nanobiotechnology Applications to the Agriculture and Food System - Vision and Implementation in USA,” Dr. Norman Scott of Cornell University discussed the potential for nanotechnology to revolutionize agriculture and food systems.  The possibilities include: opportunities to track the life history of agricultural commodities from production to table; development of delivery systems for various applications; and integration of nanosensing systems with reporting, localization and control systems to allow real-time monitoring and control of plants and animals and their local environment. He suggested that the technology offers great future opportunities for potential utilization in areas of monitoring of food safety and quality, animal health, plant systems (e.g., smart field systems that detect, locate, report, and directly apply water, fertilizers and pesticides) and environmental issues.

Dr. Frans Kampers delivered the second keynote speech titled “Microsystem and Nanotechnology (MNT) in Food & Nutrition: the Netherlands Roadmap.” The goals of The Netherlands Roadmap are to develop applications of MNT in the food and nutrition value chain for economic growth, to identify opportunities for cooperation and public-private partnerships in R&D, to identify clusters of activities, and to start new projects in these clusters. The Roadmap identified four themes, namely emulsion and delivery systems, sensory systems and processing, packaging and logistics, and filtering and fractionation processes, to be pursued in the immediate future.

2. Worldwide Research and Development in Food Nanotechnology

Billions of dollars have been invested into research throughout the world to advance nanotechnology in all fields including medicine, energy, agriculture, environment and defense.  The level of investment varies among different countries.  Much of the initial research has been fundamental in nature, aimed at understanding the nanoscale phenomena and processes, and creating new structures and/or materials, while others have aimed to bring the benefits to society through the broad applications of nanoscale understanding of matter. The move from fundamental research to useful applications in food is emerging but is faced with some challenges that require further study.  This section of the report provides a snap shot of the state of the art for food nanotechnology research in the countries represented at the conference including the U.S., Japan, The Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand.

2.1. Nanotechnology in the United States

The U.S. is currently leading the nanotechnology research effort for food applications.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has funded research projects in the areas of nanobased sensors for targets important to food safety and agriculture, biosecurity, novel targeted delivery and controlled release mechanisms suitable for food matrices.  The food industry is also conducting research including packaging and processing. According to Professor Carl Batt of Cornell University, novel tools and materials from methods ranging from traditional advances in integrated microelectronics to biological inspired fabrication strategies are being realized from such research.  Ultimately, these technologies have the potential to positively impact agriculture and food systems.

2.2. Nanotechnology in Japan

Japan’s investment in food nanotechnology research is in part through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).  The ministry has carried out a five-year project “Development of Nanotechnology and Materials for Innovative Utilizations of Biological Functions” since 2002.  Professor Mitsutoshi Nakajima of the National Food Research Institute presented food nanobiotechnology research activities, including the six projects that have been carried out, namely, development of nano-structured tissue culture plates, process technology for monodispersed nanoparticles and their utilization for drug delivery, new functional biomaterials by controlling molecular orientation, nano-scale analysis and modification of biomolecules, evaluation and utilization of dynamic states of water cluster, and development of micro-bioreactors. Dr. Nakajima specifically explained their studies on nanostructural measurements of food and biomaterials performed by atomic force microscope (AFM) and scanning near-field optical atomic force microscope (SNOM/AFM) under atmospheric and liquid conditions.  He also discussed the progress made during these studies; in particular, the micro channel technology for food emulsification and blood rheology analysis.

2.3. Nanotechnology in the Netherlands

The Dutch perspective on food nanotechnology was presented by Dr. Frans Kampers of Wageningen UR.  The general perception is that food micro- and nano-technology may be able to contribute to preventive healthcare through their potential for application in various areas of the food system including sensing, processing, products, packaging and logistics.  For example, micro- and nano-sensors and diagnostic instruments with improved sensitivity and selectivity could enable monitoring of food processes and assure food quality.  Control of matter at the nanoscale could enable fine tuning of specific food characteristics like texture to the demands of specific target groups. Similarly, the use of drug delivery concepts for nutrient delivery could improve the nutritional quality of food products. Nanotechnology can also be used to improve packaging materials. Like other new technologies, consumer perception is crucial for acceptance. Objective information on potential risks (e.g., of nanoparticles) and good communication to enable individual consumers to evaluate risks and benefits are essential for increased confidence in any new technology.

2.4. Nanotechnology in Canada

Like many other countries, Canada has heavily invested in nanotechnology research.  The Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet), which is a part of the Networks of Centers of Excellence (NCE) Program, has a major focus in food nanotechnology research.  The purpose of the network is to develop knowledge and technology that result in foods and food processes that are commercially viable, socially acceptable and value-added in partnership with industry, government, not-for-profit organizations and national and international research institutions.  Dr. Rickey Yada, the scientific director of the network, described on-going and future research activities in the areas of biofilms, computer modeling, self-assembly of food-derived materials with nanostuctured surfaces, controlled release of functional ingredients in foods, and hydrogels.

2.5. Nanotechnology in New Zealand

Dr. Harjinder Singh of Massey University discussed food nanotechnology activities in New Zealand.  He talked about the government’s initiative of developing a roadmap to provide broad context and high level direction in nanotechnology from a New Zealand perspective.  The roadmap is designed to keep New Zealand aware of national and international developments and prepared for likely challenges and opportunities. It will also guide future coordination and investments in research in this area.  The roadmap does not specifically address the impact of nanoscience and nanotechnologies on the food industry but recognizes the importance of primary industries, including food, to the New Zealand economy. Dr. Singh presented some of the specific nanotechnology research in food applications in New Zealand including nanoencapsulation, nanosensors, nanomaterials used in packaging, and nanoparticles for removing chemicals and pathogens. Various nanoencapsulation systems investigated at Riddet Centre for delivery of micronutrients and bioactive ingredients were highlighted.

3. Societal Considerations for Food Nanotechnology

A plenary session was held to discuss important societal issues including toxicology, environmental and health implications, and nanoscience education.

3.1. Nanotechnology and Society

Dr. Paul Thompson of Michigan State University discussed the “Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology (SEIN)” as a component of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which is mandated to sponsor research and education activities related to SEIN. Michigan State University is one of the recipients of a National Science Foundation grant to examine nanotechnology and associated SEIN issues in agrifood industry. The objectives of the project are: 1) to derive lessons for nanotechnology from the experience with agrifood biotechnology; 2) to identify social and ethical implications associated with nanotechnology standard setting processes that are currently underway; and 3) to take an early look at emerging agrifood nanotechnologies and their significance for the food system. Dr. Thompson urged other agricultural organizations and colleges to take a leadership role in SEIN, both as a result of their experience with biotechnology, and because the national extension network provides an important model and infrastructure for engaging the public in scientific educational and participatory decision making activities.

3.2. Toxicological Impacts of Nanotechnology

In his presentation entitled “Nanotoxicology: a small science or the science of small things?” Dr. George Burdock of Burdock Group, a toxicology consulting firm, emphasized the importance of conducting toxicological studies alongside the benefits research.  He defined nanotoxicology as a subcategory of toxicology that seeks to address unique issues resulting from exposure to nanoparticles.  Dr. Burdock stressed the need for researchers to partner with the public and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in consideration of lessons learned from the introduction of other technologies such as food irradiation and genetically modified organisms.  The toxicological effects are based primarily on size, shape and composition of the nanoparticles. Other important considerations include the density, surface charge, solubility, porosity, and surface morphology among others.  Although size is not a new phenomenon, at the nano level, absorption is enhanced and excretion may be proportionately decreased, leading to bioaccumulation. Also, given the same mass, decreasing size results in a concomitant increase in surface area and a possible increase in the level of intrinsic toxicity of the substance.  Dr. Burdock indicated that at the nano-level, because fundamental physical properties of substances have changed, would we should also expect changes in biological and toxicological effects to change as well.

3.3. Green Nanotechnology for Food Packaging

Dr. Amar Mohanty of Michigan State University addressed the audience in his presentation titled “Green Nanocomposites and Nanotechnology in Food Packaging for a Sustainable Future: Where We are and Where We are Going.” Green polymeric materials in conjunction with nanotechnology are expected to create major breakthrough in the plastic-based packaging industries. New material development is now transitioning from petroleum-based hydrocarbon chemistry to the biomass-derived carbohydrate (green) chemistry. Green polymers, like poly lactic acid (PLA), polyhydorxyalkanoates (PHAs), starch-based plastics and biobased poly (trimethylene terephthalate) show opportunities to the packaging industries. For example, the elongation at break can be improved by modifying PLA properties by confining nano-scopic hyperbranched polymer in the matrix, which leads to the development of these biobased materials with superior mechanical, thermal and barrier performance.

3.4. Nanoscience Education

The introduction of any technology in the mainstream economy comes with a demand for skilled manpower.  Because of its potential to impact the food and agriculture sector, educational institutions have started preparing themselves for the demand for skilled manpower. Nano education can be implemented at all stages of learning including K-12, universities and continuing education levels. Various institutions of higher learning have started educational initiatives to address the need as discussed in the following examples.

At Purdue University, according to Dr. David Nivens, an Associate Professor of Food Science, there is an ongoing project focused on introducing the nanoscale concepts, implications, and applications in food and agricultural sciences to first-year students in the School of Agriculture. The project applies a three tiered approach involving: (i) early exploration of nanotechnology and its applications in the food and agricultural sciences, (ii) acquisition of skills for research in nanotechnology, and (iii) application of the learned skills in nanotechnology research.  The goal is to expose students to nanotechnology with a hope of a few of the choosing to specialize in the field.  Further Dr. Joseph Irudayaraj, a Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Purdue University and colleagues are also working to develop curricula for agricultural and food nanoscale education. The materials will address the principles, applications, and issues of Nanofabrication relevant to food safety and quality, plant and animal health, environment and crop monitoring, and sensor systems. They will also draw from on-going research and will be available for use by other institutions.

Finally, Dr. Paul Takhistov of Rutgers University is working with other colleagues to develop a food nanotechnology textbook. Among the topics to be addressed are: molecular nanotechnology, nanomaterials and nanopowders, nanoelectronics, optics and photonics, and nanobiometrics. The book will also address some cutting-edge applications in food science and prophecies for the future developments.

4. Nanotechnology Research for Agriculture and Food Systems Supported by USDA/CSREES

The conference presented fourteen nanoscale science and engineering research projects funded by USDA/CSREES NRI Nanotechnology Program. These projects demonstrated a wide range of applicability of nanotechnology to important agricultural production, post-harvest processing, value-added products, food safety and quality, and environmental preservation. A list of these technical presentations is as follows:

1.      Photosystem I Nanoscale Photodiodes For Creating Photoelectrochemical Devices, G. Kane Jennings, Vanderbilt University
2.      Using Nanotechnology To Identify And Characterize Hydrological Flowpaths In Agricultural Landscapes, M.T. Walter, Dan Lou, J.M. Regan, Cornell University
3.      Nanoscale Sensor Materials Incorporated In Near Nano Scale Fibrous Mats For Detection Of Airborne And Condensed Phase Biohazards, Margaret F. Frey; Y.L. Joo, A.J. Baeumner, Cornell University
4.      Virus Recognition Using Antibody Sensor Arrays On Self-Assembled Nanoscale Block Copolymer Patterns,  Peter Kofinas, University of Maryland
5.      Engineering Ultrasensitive, Electrically Addressable Nanotube-Wire sensors Through Controlled DNA-Nanotube Interfacing, Jin-Woo Kim, R. Deaton, S. Tung, University Of Arkansas
6.      Protein Structure Sensors Through Molecular Imprinting: Applications Towards Prion Detection And Correction, David W. Britt, Utah State University
7.      Development of Nanoscale Magnetostrictive Particles as Novel Biosensor, Zhongyang. Cheng, Auburn University
8.      The Detection of Food-Borne Toxins with Multifunctional Nanoparticles, Ian M. Kennedy, Univ. of California – Davis
9.      Zein Nanofabricated Biomaterials for Tissue Scaffolding, Graciela W. Padua, A.R. Crofts, C. Liu, University of Illinois
10.  Development and Characterization of Nanocomposite Materials for the Detection of Pore-Forming Toxins, Jenna L. Rickus, A.K. Bhunia, Purdue University
11.  Molecular Imprinted Polymers for Plant and Insect Virus Recognition, Peter Kofinas, University of Maryland
12.  Engineering a DNA Nanobarcode to Track Bacterial Population in Agriculturally Important Microbial Environments, Dan Luo, L. Walker, Cornell University
13.  Nanoscale Self Assembly of Starch Phase Relations, Formation and Structure, Gregory R. Ziegler, J. Runt, Pennsylvania State University
14.  Development of Blood Protein Assays for Prions in Mammalian TSEs, R. Lewis, Justin Jones, University of Wyoming

5. Potential Applications for Food Nanotechnology

Conference participants were subdivided into four groups based on the potential areas of application in food and equipped with the following questions for discussions: What is the state of the art in this area and where do we want to be?; What are the current limitations and challenges?; What are the opportunities for use on nanotechnology and what are the future research needs?  The group discussions are summarized in the subsequent sub-sections.

5.1. Improving Food Safety, Biosecurity, and Product Traceability

In defining the state of the art, the 21 participants in this session suggested and agreed that there seems to be a shift occurring from basic nanotechnology to applied nanotechnology.  At the same time, there is a lack of translational research to help smooth the transition.  The earliest research identified and created smaller, defined pieces of technology.  The current challenge is to take those pieces and move towards an actual application.  There is marked concern over this challenge primarily, the lack of funding for translational research.  Basic research funding agencies will fund the early research (the identification and development of the individual nanotechnologies) but fewer dollars are available for scaling up the process into the production phase.  Meanwhile, industry is primarily interested in technologies they can use at the present time, thus limiting the amount of dollars available for scaling up the process and bringing it to application.

Several participants noted that research is still needed in the area of selective detection and competition. There is a disconnection between methods and signals; multiple methods and signals exist and the systems are in place, but a knowledge inventory is lacking.  There seems to be a lack of alignment currently between what is known to exist and what needs to be further developed or discovered.  This is particularly critical when discussing the use of nanotechnology systems in efforts to protect against bioterrorism.  It is difficult to define not only what to measure, but how to measure it.  There are also issues of unintentional contamination.  Being able to determine the exact level of contamination is critical, especially in a bioterrorism-preventative system.  According to the participants, there is still a severe lack of fundamental research regarding detection and sensitivity levels.  Participants also emphasized the fact that nanotechnology may not be the answer for all safety concerns.  If there are current methods that can analyze or detect contaminants faster and are less expensive, then placing emphasis on furthering development of nanotechnologies for the same purpose, albeit for a greater expense, may not be the brightest idea.

The question to ask: Is any current existing nanotechnology “better” than the standard method available?  The answer may be yes, if whatever is being measured is present in large enough quantities for the system to sense.  The sample size is so small for nanosensors, that it may pose a problem with sensing minute quantities of contaminant in minute sample sizes.  In these instances, it may be more advantageous and more accurate to use a standard sensing or detection system with a sample size large enough to contain enough contaminant to register.

In terms of a ten-year goal, participants identified development of a better procedure for analyzing quality than the currently used fecal coliform count method developed in 1917.  Participants also recognized that the definition of the word “better” was going to be necessary.  Benchmarks need to be established to evaluate new technologies and systems as they become available.  Will it be costly?  If a nanotechnology can analyze for less than five dollars per sample, is that adequate?  Is it “better” than existing technology?  It is important to realize that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis will always be present; no amount of nanotechnology is going to phase out or eliminate PCR analysis, bench instrumentation, and plate counts.  Nanosensors must be developed so that anyone can operate one with simple instruction.  The sensors must also be portable to be considered “better” or more advantageous than the PCR analysis or comparable laboratory analysis and for quick response.  The reference method must be identified among the current traditional methods of analysis. Once the reference method is defined, the nanotechnology application can be evaluated base on speed, specificity, sample preparation, etc.

Also discussed was a need for a better understanding of the specific organisms to be detected.  It is important to understand the ecosystem as well as the nanotechnology aspect of sensing technology.

It was recommended that funding authorities consider placing emphasis on or requesting proposals which specifically address biological aspects and behaviors as well as the nanotechnology process involved.  This will require collaboration with other non-traditional nanoscience departments within the university system.

Long-term goals included a recruitment process to amplify toxin levels for detection in smaller sample sizes.  It was suggested that research be conducted to use animals and existing systems to model some detecting systems; insects and pheromone sensing abilities, and dogs and termites and cancer sensing abilities were suggested as models to study.  Participants recognized that the process for using antimicrobials in food needs improvement.  A better delivery system is necessary, particularly in complex food systems and at variable processing temperatures.  There was a suggestion to attempt to obtain a better understanding of biomimicry.

5.2. Better Nutrient Delivery Mechanisms in Food

A great deal of research is on-going in the functional ingredient delivery systems area, mostly focusing on developing the systems such as association colloids and emulsions. The participants recognized the resulting delivery systems have great potential in encapsulating nutrients.  Several potential challenges for these systems are discussed subsequently.  Materials for nutrient delivery are limited, for example poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid is approved by the FDA for use in drugs but not in food thus making it difficult to design release systems for food.  Also it is difficult to handle some of the micronutrients such as for omega-3 fatty acid due to low stability, which consequently result in stability issues for delivery systems.  Other problems include: difficulty to deliberately control release of nutrients, potential negative impact on flavors, high cost of technology, issues with low bioavailability and instability of delivery systems to other processes such as thermal processing.

The participants discussed other concerns that may be specific to nanotechnology including bioavailability/toxicological and regulation issues. They noted that encapsulation and delivery can lead to change in absorption that can lead to change in Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). Increased intake of some micronutrients such as Vitamin A may lead to toxicity.  Research is needed to address bioavailability/toxicological boarders.

FDA regulation of nano-based delivery systems as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) needs to be clearly defined.  The current regulation is such that if the new technology is considered as a carrying system, the materials don’t have to be GRAS-approved, but they then become a labeling issue.  They recommended the use of generally recognized as efficacious (GRAE) system instead of GRAS.  With regard to labeling it is important to deal with the different shelf-life claims.

The participants recognized the importance of safety issues and recommended that overall risk assessment of nanomaterials in food be conducted.  In particular, toxicity studies for cross activation and interactions are needed but should be cost-effective.  Concern for the safety of the workers should also be addressed. An EU prospective is that although a product may have many benefits, when it’s toxic, those benefits disappear. Even if you have already spent a lot of money, gambling on a wishful benefit is not to one’s best advantage. Additionally, more thorough understanding of toxicology and the effect of nano-products on human consumption and health is necessary.

In terms of nano-food products, the general consensus of the participants was that there are lots of unknowns, including toxicities.  It is difficult to determine toxicities because of the differences in solubility and properties of the nanomaterials involved. More than ten years from now, participants expressed a hope that current researchers can be proactive rather than reactive to risk issues.  Concern was demonstrated regarding nanotechnology falling into a similar public media situation as biotechnology and genetically modified organisms.

The costs of nanotechnology are seen as something not realistic for the low-cost food industry. The set-up is such that a new company will venture into nanotechnology and the food industry will take it up only if it is successful. The main questions to be asked include “Who is going to pay for what?” and “What research has to be addressed?”

Public perception was identified as a potentially major impediment to the advancement of nanotechnology in food, as has been the case with biotechnology.  The participants recognized that public attitude is mediated by other groups that lack accurate information. There is an urgent need to educate the public on the potential benefits and risks on nanotechnologies based on accurate research data.

Participants also indicated specific opportunities for use of nanotechnology in nutrient delivery systems in the following areas: 1) Improved delivery systems: develop systems for improved nutrition, for better delivery of flavors to reduce amount used, for use in complex systems with multiple functionalities, for individualized nutrition systems and to overcome stability problems in multilayer systems; 2) Optimizing release: develop systems with precise control over release, timed and targeted release, triggered release, pH dependent release and development of multifunctional systems; 3) Materials and Methods: for materials, there is need to overcome material limitations, use cheaper and existing raw materials and use of materials already used in drugs for food applications.  For methods there is need for clean processing, self assembly of systems, rapid bioavailability screening, and sensory (e.g. texture) modification systems.

5.3. Nanomaterials to Enhance Packaging Performance

The participants discussed the potential for nanomaterials to be used to enhance the current or develop new food packaging materials with superior mechanical, thermal and barrier properties as well as antimicrobial properties. Food packaging applications seem to be one of the leading target opportunities for nanotechnology commercialization in food.

The most popular example is the polymer-clay nanocomposites in which nano-size clay fillers are used. The nanoclay fillers are used in smaller amounts (about 1-5% by weight) compared to conventional clay fillers for similar properties. The nylon-based nanocomposites with excellent barrier properties seem ready for commercialization.  Future activities involve tailoring the polymer-clay composites to meet the packaging needs of specific products. Nanoclays can be applied with high specificity.

Research on polymer-mineral nanocomposites with antimicrobial properties has shown promising results.  For example, nanosilver, which is highly antimicrobial, has been tested in packaging materials.  The potential concern is its effect on the environment.  However, the amount used is so small (less than 1% or in parts per million) that it diminishes the chances of leaching. The research is required to address issues related to its efficacy as an antimicrobial, its behavior in different polymer matrices, and disposal issues such as effect of incineration on the particles or effects of the particles on the environment after the materials degrade.

Nanoparticles also have great potential for application in active and smart packaging.  Multilayer packaging technology is currently used to achieve barrier properties.  This technology causes potential problems with waste disposal due to the difficulties involved in separating the materials. The use of nanotechnology as an alternative for improved barrier properties is being explored.  Research to replace some of the commonly used materials such as aluminum is needed.

5.4. Implications of Nanotechnology for Food Processing

The food industry is following closely the exciting discoveries and revolutionary prospects brought about by nanotechnology, while trying to identify opportunities to use these discoveries to significantly enhance food processing and food products. The consensus of the meeting was that nanotechnology is still in its infancy, with food applications being rather in a pre-infancy state, but also that there is a great amount of enthusiasm and anticipation surrounding this technology.

A limited number of existing food-relevant applications that deal with matter at a nano-scale have been identified by the participants: the development of functionalized membranes that could potentially be used for the isolation and purification of highly sensitive bioactive compounds; nano-structuring technologies such as emulsification, dispersion and nano-aeration using microchannel technology, or the encapsulation of active compounds in food polymer matrices.  Most of these applications use the “top-down” approach.  Nanotechnology also promotes nanofabrication and the “bottom-up” approach. The fabrication of food biopolymer-based nano-structured materials with unique mechanical and functional properties, the synthesis of liposomes that can be used for the encapsulation and targeted delivery of bioactive compounds (i.e. vitamins) through foods, or the development of nanosensors for pathogen detection fit all in the “bottom-up” category, and are viewed as a starting point for the integration of nanotechnology into food science and technology.

Despite the slow onset of nanotechnology-based applications in the food industry, the meeting participants all agreed that the future holds great promise, particularly in the following areas: (1) Health promotion through foods, by using food matrices as delivery tools for bioactive compounds; (2) Creation of ingredients with enhanced functionality, which will be used to manufacture foods with novel and unique flavors and textures; (3) Development of novel, nano-structured packaging materials with enhanced barrier or self-sealing characteristics; (4) Materials with microbial repellant characteristics that could be used to manufacture food contact surfaces with self-sanitizing properties (i.e., packaging and processing equipment); (5) Novel processing technologies; and (6) Advanced tools for monitoring and warning, which would include nanosensors for food safety, shelf-life and quality monitoring.

As with every new technology, a range of minor to serious challenges was foreseen. Various food industry representatives questioned whether or not “nano” applications will become cost-effective in a not-so-distant future, and if the benefits would outweigh the costs in such a low profit margin industry. It was also pointed out that the implementation of some nanotechnology developments could dramatically change the way in which the food industry operates at the moment, which would also require significant changes of the current food regulations and legislation. Recent reports in the media regarding the risks posed by some nanoparticles used for the manufacture of certain cosmetics triggered the comment that significant research is still required to evaluate the toxicity of nanotechnology products, particularly nanoparticles, in order to protect both the consumers (regarding product and environmental safety), but also those involved in research and manufacturing (worker safety). A set of clear safety steps that need to be taken when handling nano-sized particles is necessary because, due to their size, such particles may become readily invasive. Proper detection methods will also have to be developed, both for quality control and for environmental monitoring purposes. It was stressed that both researchers and the industry have to learn from previous mistakes of other technologies and be proactive in addressing any foreseeable safety issues before the commercialization of “nano-based” products and technologies. Any mishandling of this new technology or rushed application of its discoveries may trigger a serious resistance of consumers, who could end up regarding nanotechnology as a dangerous rather than useful tool.

Overall, all participants agreed that there is tremendous interest in nanotechnology, and that the food industry is eager to benefit as much as possible from its revolutionary discoveries.

6. Research Needs Identified

The overall view of the conference participants was that food nanotechnology is still in an early stage, thus research is much needed in many areas of science, engineering and technology in order to realize its full potential. The following research needs were identified and categorized. The likely predicament is the source of funding to conduct the research.

6.1. Fundamental Knowledge

Some fundamental issues need to be addressed as progress is made towards applying nanotechnology in food, for example, discovery of nanometer scale phenomena and processes that are relevant to control food quality, safety and its value to enhance human health. There is a need to clearly define nanotechnology for the food industry and outline the technologies that are applicable. These technologies should be compared with existing ones for advantages and disadvantages, as well as to identify gaps.

6.2. Instrumentation, Characterization and Standards

It is critical to develop characterization tools and metrology for studying nanoscale materials used in food products, processes, packaging and food contact surfaces.  Furthermore, there is need to establish standards for nanoscale measurements.

6.3. Sensors and Sensing Devices and Systems

There is need to develop nanoscale sensing technologies for food safety such as rapid sensing and detection methods would enable industry to detect problems and make immediate changes in process; and nanosensors for monitoring food quality changes throughout food consumption chain from farm to fork. Additionally, development of sample preparation techniques for nanosensors and biosensors is critical.

6.4. Product Development

Research is needed to develop nanotechnologies that will result in increased stability and shelf-life of food products.  Nanotechnology should be explored for development of nutrient enriched foods.  Other areas of research application that require further research are: formulation of partial emulsions (in frozen state) and development of efficient flavor release systems.  The main challenge in product development is to create a cost-effective final product.  Nanotechnology should also be explored for potential application to the food system ecology.

6.5. Nutrition and Health Research

Research is already on-going in the area of encapsulation technologies and nutrient delivery systems, but more work is recommended in certain areas including: stabilization of the delivery systems in food; use of nano-emulsions for micronutrient delivery; and specific applications within delivery systems such as development of individualized systems. The available nanoparticles need to be evaluated for efficacy. Research is also needed to improve the bioavailability and stability of nutrients within delivery systems.  The use of nanomaterials as antimicrobials in the food system and for therapeutics in health systems should be explored.

6.6. Environmental Research

There is need to incorporate green chemistry in the development and advancement of nanotechnology research for food (green nanomanufacturing). This involves development of nanomaterials for use in efficient operations that result in reduced waste and/or elimination of undesired by-products. Additionally, research that will result in improved energy efficiency processes should be encouraged.

6.7. Safety, Ethics and Regulatory Issues

Comprehensive risk analysis for nanotechnologies is required; i.e., risk assessment (qualitative and quantitative) to identify data gaps, risk management and risk communication to stakeholders.   Other areas of research discussed include evaluating the safety of different nanoparticles and the safety of workers developing new techniques and products, and conducting checks and balances research. Ultimately, there is a need to develop adequate and practical risk management tools and protocols.  Further research is needed in identifying and addressing potential regulatory challenges.

6.8. Education and Communication

There is a need to establish education programs at all levels of education ranging from K-12 to undergraduate.  This will help enhance interest in the science and future acceptability of the technology, as well as produce future nanotechnologists. Since nanoscale science cuts across several disciplines, the education initiatives should be interdisciplinary in nature.  It is also important to educate other stakeholders including consumers, media, environmental groups, etc. on the potential benefits and risks of food nanotechnology in order to enhance the perception and acceptability of the technologies.  This can be achieved in part through development of simple communication messages that are based on scientific data and well understood by the general public.

Acknowledgements

IFT would like to acknowledge the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Royal Dutch Embassy, and Burdock Group for their financial support of this conference.

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