ITO Thailand Hygiene Blog

Apr 24 2023

Nanotechnology in the Food Industry

            Nanotechnology has been brought to our attention for the last decades, and it has provided various beneficial applications to the food industry. Unlike other technology, nanotechnology has broadened the knowledge in the food industry to another level in a nanoscale dimension. It involves almost every aspect of the food industry, including food packaging, food processing, as well as functional food development and enhancement of food safety. In this blog, we will discuss how nanotechnology is used in food packaging and food products, and the most important part, its safety issues.

Nanotechnology in Food Packaging

            In food packaging, the most recent development and widely used applications of nanotechnology are nanoparticles, nanosensors and nanobiosensors (10). Nanoparticles reinforced bio-nanocomposites usually have a dimension between 1-100 nm on at least one side and are also related with the enhanced mechanical, rheological, barrier, thermal, as well as antimicrobial properties of the packaging, which provide a longer shelf-life (14), and bio-nanocomposites are considered as a new, and efficient materials for food packaging because of its high surface area of reinforced nanoparticles (11). Wide range of nanomaterials are used in food packaging such as nanocellulose, nano starch, protein nanoparticles, chitosan nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, silver nanoparticles, zinc oxide nanoparticles, titanium dioxide nanoparticles, and nanoclay with different functions such as increasing thermal stability or tensile strength, providing antibacterial activity, or improving mechanical property (1). Amongst all types of the smart packaging, intelligent packaging has been forecasted to be the most utilised packaging because it provides an informative, interactive, low cost, and consumer-oriented features with aesthetically pleasing design (6). Nanoparticles also have a high stability even in extreme conditions such as high heat and pressure environments (13), so it is quite flexible and can be used in a variety of food packaging.

            Nanosensors and nanobiosensors are small devices commonly used in an intelligent food packaging (In another blog, we will have a discussion on ranges of food packaging, including intelligent packaging which has the ability to monitor the condition of packaged food, and communicate with consumers to keep them safe) because those sensors are able to be programmed, detect or measure physical or chemical properties on the condition of food or the environment surrounding the food and send those signals back to consumers (4). Thus, consumers are informed with the information on the quality of food, as well as an enhanced food safety, and help them determine to consume in its optimum condition.

Nanostructure of Food Products and usage in Food Processing

            Nanotechnology in food products is mainly associated with the usage in food processing. We have discussed the application of microencapsulation in the previous blog, and nanoencapsulation is taking encapsulation to another level with a smaller dimension in nanoscale and is widely used as well, thus an improve in efficiency of encapsulation can be expected such as better odour masking function, and better control the releasing of active agents, as well as improved barrier properties (16). Nanosized bioactive compounds can be absorbed efficiently and also can be delivered with more accuracy at any target destination, ensuring availability at expected condition, and maintaining their functional stability for a longer period during storage (15), as well as a deeper penetration of a smaller size which leads to more delivery efficiency (7).

            Moreover, nanofiltration (NF) is one of the four major membrane processes that are driven by pressure (They consist of microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis), so it is often used in the food industry with a pore size of 0.5-1 nm (12). NF is related to several production steps such as the desalination of process, pyrogen removal, and condensate polisher (9).

Safety Issues

            There are several concerns on the toxicity and its environmental effects of nanomaterials (2). For instance, aggregation and agglomeration of nanosilver particles can occur in a poor environmental condition, and they have a high risk to become partially uncoated and eventually become unstable, thus resulting in a release of silver atoms which is toxic (8). Moreover, nanosilver which has been used as an antimicrobial agent, has raised the concern of consumers and related parties because a number of studies have found that it can cause damages to the human body such as bluish-colour skin, oxidative damages in cellular systems (8). It is believed that the toxicity of nanosilver is from its ionic and nano form, and can damage and compromise mitochondria respiration, which results in cell oxidative stress (3). Furthermore, a study has found the genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of nanoparticles in food packaging materials, so the use of nanotechnology in the food industry must be regulated (5).        

            In short, there are numerous benefits of nanotechnology that are currently used in the food industry but there are some concerns in regard to the safety issues as well. These issues are also not new for food innovations, because when these nanomaterials are related with consumer health risk, they must be carefully managed and have a strict procedure to control their safety. ITO Thailand aims to improve the quality of food standard, by supporting an innovative solution, and also ensure consumers’ health and safety as a priority.


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13.Sawai, J. (2003). Quantitative evaluation of antibacterial activities of metallic oxide powders (ZnO, MgO and CaO) by conductimetric assay. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 54(2), 177–182.

14.Shukla, P., Chaurasia, P., Younis, K., Qadri, O. S., Faridi, S. A., & Srivastava, G. (2019). Nanotechnology in sustainable agriculture: studies from seed priming to post-harvest management. Nanotechnology for Environmental Engineering, 4, 11.

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