National Institute of Technology Andhra Pradesh Researchers collaborating with other Institutes have demonstrated how the concept of nanotechnology can be used to develop food packaging materials that enhance the shelf-life, maintain quality, retain flavor and color of packed food materials.
A group of interdisciplinary researchers led by Dr. Tingirikari Jagan Mohan Rao, Assistant Professor, Department of Biotechnology, NIT Andhra Pradesh, have published an article in the prestigious peer-reviewed Journal of European Food research and Technology.
The article was co-authored by research scholar, Ms. Akriti Tirkey, Ph.D., Mizoram University, along with Dr. Punuri Jayasekhar Babu, Assistant Professor, Biomaterials and Bioengineering Research Laboratory, Department of Biotechnology, Pachhunga University College, Mizoram University.
Nanotechnology is an emerging area of research as its application is growing day by day in various sectors including food and agriculture due to their wide physical, chemical, and biological properties which are functionalized with several biomolecules to enhance the properties of packing and storage materials. The applications of nanotechnology at the global level are estimated to be around US$ 3 Trillion.
Nanoparticle-based materials offer a greater advantage over conventional and non-biodegradable packing materials by enhancing the functional properties of foods such as bio-availability, taste, texture, flavor, and shelf-life. Additionally, nanomaterials in the form of sensors can be employed to maintain the temperature, detect pathogens, pesticides, toxins, and other chemicals in packed foods.
Explaining the key aspects of this research, Dr. Tingirikari Jagan Mohan Rao, Assistant Professor, Department of Biotechnology, NIT Andhra Pradesh, said, “The research emphasizes the role of nanoparticles to provide mechanical stability to packing material and shows how the nano-sensors can be developed to detect pathogens, contamination, pesticides, and allergens and enhances the antimicrobial properties of packing material to prevent food spoilage and contamination.”
Further, Dr. Tingirikari Jagan Mohan Rao, explained, “In addition to this, the role of inorganic nanoparticles in food preservation is to increase shelf-life and release of antioxidants protecting the food from harmful ultraviolet radiations. The research also discusses the food safety aspects related to nanomaterials and follows eco–friendly practices such as proper labeling on the food items, following safety regulation for disposal, to perform cytotoxic studies on humans and animals.”
Prof. C. S. P. Rao, Director, NIT Andhra Pradesh has appreciated the work done by the faculty members and the scholars. He also encouraged the staff for such interdisciplinary based collaborative research work for emerging applications.
Speaking about his recent work, Dr. Punuri Jayasekhar Babu, Pachhunga University College, Mizoram University, said, “Very less amount of work has been done to evaluate the toxic effects of nanoparticles on mammalian cells under in-vivo conditions. Inorganic nanoparticles are insoluble and pose a great challenge of bioaccumulation in human cells which may cause biotoxicity on a longer run, thus, hampering its use in the food processing industry.”
Talking about the effects of Nanoparticles, Dr. Punuri Jayasekhar Babu, said, “It is worthwhile to note that the nanoparticles used for the packing materials may migrate into food when it comes in contact with packaging materials and hence, the impact of inorganic nanoparticles should be studied. Also, nanomaterials especially nano packaging should be only permitted after rigorous testing before applying them to food systems.”
The research also discusses the role of various government agencies in addressing the safety issues, bringing the legislation and regulations on the use and application of nanomaterials. It highlights how bio-based polymers can be blended with nanoparticles to make more efficient and effective packing materials.
In this paper, the researchers explained how confidence can be built among the consumers by maintaining transparency in evaluating the effects of nanoparticles on humans and the surrounding environment and accentuated how researchers and industries should develop products that can easily get public acceptance. If the safety and security issues get addressed, nanotechnology will revolutionize the food processing and packaging industry to a great extent and minimize food wastage.