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Nanofood: Safe and Green Cuisine

Nanofood: Safe and Green Cuisine

Russel Wheeler, Cozen O'Connor, & Francesca Levy | Bussiness Week

Food created with nanotechnology is healthful for humans and environmentally friendly. Pro or con?

Pro: Dish up the Nanofood
Russel Wheeler & Cozen O’Connor

The statistics are alarming. Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show that one in four Americans is sickened by a food-borne illness each year.

Moreover, producing and distributing food accounts for approximately 19% of U.S. energy use, according to the journal Human Ecology. But a solution to both problems is in sight. Appropriately employing nanotechnology can help address energy concerns and threats to the safety and security of America’s food supply.

Nanotechnology, generally defined as the manipulation and control of matter at dimensions between 1 and 100 nanometers (hundreds of times thinner than a human hair), has already led to several innovations affecting our lives, including smaller microchips, self-cleaning textiles, and more easily absorbed sunscreens.

Although use of nanotechnology in the food industry is, by comparison, still in its nascent stages, it has already led to safer, more efficient production and distribution. For example, new packaging designs employ nano-engineered materials to make food containers less permeable and imbue them with anti-microbial coatings, helping to keep foods fresher, safer, and healthier. What’s more, beyond decreasing the risk of post-production contamination, such packaging potentially reduces the energy required to store and ship foods.

Similar technologies provide anti-microbial coatings to almost any food preparation surface, from kitchen counters to factory food-processing areas, further improving food safety. Plus, nanomaterials can increase the heating efficiency of cookware, reducing energy costs associated with food production. In the future, nanotechnology could produce quicker and more accurate testing of food-borne pathogens in all stages of food production and distribution.

Nanotechnology, like any scientific innovation, may present its own set of risks and challenges. While we cannot ignore these issues, we also cannot disregard the full potential of these technologies to meet the very real challenges facing America’s food supply, by both reducing the risks of contamination and improving efficiency of production.

For the con argument, go to the next page >>