Nanotechnology in Food

Nanotechnology is the study and application of materials at the nano scale. A nanometer is 0.0000000001 of a meter. Over the past few years, the development of nanosciences and nanotechnology has brought news perspectives for many industry and consumer sectors.


Nanotechnology is actually an interdisciplinary field which spreads over a spectrum of science, including physics, chemistry and biology, as well as engineering. In food industry, nanotechnology has attracted several studies because of its potential uses, including microorganism detection, monitoring food quality through the use of biosensors, ‘active and intelligent’ packaging systems, bioavailability of bioactive ingredients and production of new flavours or textures.

There is a lot of public controversy regarding the use of Nanotechnology in Foods, and you may think that nanotechnology is something that was just invented. Not really! Nano-sized ingredients have been safely present in foods consumed by humans since the beginning of mankind. Good examples are the Casein micelles in milk, nano-sized protein-calcium-phosphate particles produced naturally by a cow to deliver nutrition to the offspring in a readily digestible form; and the polysaccharide compounds in beers, which are often nano-sized. Also, people have been producing foods with nanoscale particles for a long time: for example whipping up different types of ingredients to make complex mixtures - something as familiar as mayonnaise - depending on the shear may produce nanoscale interactions between the used ingredients.

In summary, certain kinds of nanoparticles in food have been in our diet for a long time and they have not been bad for us. However, we must be very careful in ensuring that any newly created nanoparticles are safe before allowing them in our diet.


This text was prepared by Mafalda Quintas, Catholic University of Portugal, College of Biotechnology, Porto, Portugal.

For further questions please refer to:


Find out more about emerging technologies:

Cold Atmospheric Plasma, High Hydrostatic Pressure, Plant Genomics, Pulsed Electric Fields and Ozone.