What do chemistry, engineering, physics and food have in common? The answer is nanotechnology, a field of science that involves manipulating matter at the scale of atoms and molecules.
Now, don’t yawn (or panic), because nanotechnology is a very promising and exciting area of food science that you’ll be reading a lot more about. Why? Well, nanotechnology has the potential to:
- Help the food industry make healthier products
- Positively influence how foods affect our physiology
- Enhance flavor and texture
- Serve as detectors of food pathogens
While Mother Nature has long been involved with nanotechnology, only recently have scientists been able to modify matter on such a small scale, and this is great news when it comes to creating functional foods, in particular. Essentially, as the infusion of nutraceuticals (such as lutein, phytosterols, CoQ10 and lycopene) into food becomes more popular, delivery systems are needed.
For example, nano-drops of nutrients could enter the bloodstream more easily, perhaps increasing bioavailability of these nutrients;
nano-encapsulation might protect vulnerable molecules from breaking down in the GI tract, instead, providing controlled release, and
nano-fibers could served as a structural matrix for environmentally-friendly packaging.
Granted, this log oversimplifies quantum physics and nanotechnology, but their output will profoundly affect our everyday lives. Certainly, something worth knowing.
As for safety, since the FDA already reviews and regulates products that contain particles in the nanoscale range, no other special regulations exist; however, products of nanotechnology will most likely fall under the jurisdiction of certain FDA centers.