What is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is the manufacture of materials and structures at the nanometre scale (a nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre). There is a need to distinguish between the natural occurrence of nanoparticles (such as in protein, fat or carbohydrates), their presence through conventional processing techniques (such as milling, homogenising and emulsifying) and where particle size has been deliberately engineered to behave differently to its conventional counterpart. While nanoparticles can occur naturally, where engineered nanoparticles which introduce new properties are used, their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The European Technology Platform (ETP) Food for Life’s Strategic Research Agenda indicates nanotechnologies’ potential uses in the food and drink industry: From 2015 to 2020, nanotechnologies could be used improve products, processes and packaging, for example, nanoparticles could be used to provide a barrier to oxygen in a plastic packaging (reducing the possibility of food spoiling) or nanosensors could be developed to detect bacteria (reducing the risk of contamination).