Technological watch

Recent advances and challenges on applications of nanotechnology in food packaging. A literature review

Nanotechnology applied to food and beverage packaging has created enormous interest in recent years, but in the same time there are many controversial issues surrounding nanotechnology and food. The benefits of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in food-contact applications are accompanied by safety concerns due to gaps in understanding of their possible toxicology. In case of incorporation in food contact polymers, the first step to consumer exposure is the transfer of ENPs from the polymer to the food. Hence, to improve understanding of risk and benefit, the key questions are whether nanoparticles can be released from food contact polymers and under which conditions.

This review has two main goals. Firstly, it will presents the current advancements in the application of ENPs in food and beverage packaging sector to grant active and intelligent properties. A particular focus will be placed on current demands in terms of risk assessment strategies associated with the use ENPs in food contact materials (FCMs), i.e. up-to-date migration/cytotoxicity studies of ENPs which are partly contradictory. Food matrix effects are often ignored, and may have a pronounced impact on the behaviour of ENPs in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). A standardized food model (SFM) for evaluating the toxicity and fate of ingested ENPs was recently proposed and herein discussed with the aims to offer an overview to the reader. It is therefore clear that further systematic research is needed, which must account for interactions and transformations of ENMs in foods (food matrix effect) and in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) that are likely to determine nano-biointeractions.

Secondly, the review provides an extensive analysis of present market dynamics on ENPs in food/beverage packaging moving beyond concept to current industrial applications.

Publication date: 01/12/2019

Author: Daniela Enescu, Miguel A. Cerqueira, Pablo Fucinos, Lorenzo M. Pastrana

Food and Chemical Toxicology


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.