UK food manufacturers have been urged to recognise the massive potential of nanotechnology in creating healthier foods.
Tiny nano particles can deliver a more rapid hit of taste, thus enabling ingredients such as fat and salt to be reduced in recipes, which also reduces the cost of ingredients, Barry Park, theme manager at nanotechnology promotion body Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN), told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
He commented: “Nano technology can also ensure the more efficient dispersion of fat in products such as mayonnaise and bread, delivering taste at lower levels.”
Powders could also be made more free-flowing and dispersible with nano particles.
Two- or three-fold increases
And nano technology can bring two- or three-fold increases in shelf-life, he said, as packaging films made with tiny nano particles can exclude more oxygen, and also be engineered to offer anti-bacterial properties.
However, the UK was falling behind countries in the Far East and the UK in commercialising nanotechnology, he said.
He said: “The UK was the leading country for developing the science behind nanotechnology, and put a lot of money into it. Academically it is very strong, with significant research achievements, but it is that age-old problem of translating research into commercial benefit.”
Companies were also reluctant to call products ‘nano’ in this country as consumers were less receptive to new materials in food, whereas in the Far East nano was seen as positive.
A novel product from Tate & Lyle, Soda-lo, was one of only a few products being marketed, he said. It enabled added salt levels to be reduced by up to 30% in foods such as bread, pizza bases, pastry, savoury pie fillings, cheese and baked snacks, without loss of flavour or structure.
The technology had been developed by Eminate, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Nottingham and licensed to Tate & Lyle globally.
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. It works with materials, devices, and other structures with at least one dimension sized from one to 100 nanometres.
A nanometre is one-billionth of a metre, smaller than the wavelength of visible light and a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair.
The first Knowledge Transfer Networks were set up in 2005 by government, industry and academia to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience between academia and industry.
They bring together organisations and provide activities and initiatives that promote the exchange of knowledge and the stimulation of innovation in these communities.