The New Generation of Food

nanotechnology-in-food

Nanotechnology has opened up so many possibilities for the food industry. You’ll find that a lot of what you eat today has been “improved” by nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is basically the manipulation of size and shape at the atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scale that produces structures, devices, and systems with new/superior characteristics or properties.

For several years now, nanotechnology has become increasingly popular especially in the food industry. One example of nanotechnology is the use of titanium dioxide to make foods such as yogurt look as white as possible. The more important use of nanotechnology involves improving the nutritional value of foods. Nano additives can enhance or prevent the absorption of certain nutrients. Now, mayonnaise can be made less fattening by replacing fat molecules with water droplets. Nanotech is also being used in the packaging industry to keep food fresher for a longer period. Ideally, nanopackaging would provide protection from moisture, bacteria, and pathogens. There are many techniques being tested, such as coating packaging with nano silver particles to make them antimicrobial or using polypropylene to inhibit moisture.

Nanotechnology in food can be really innovative and beneficial, but there are people who question its safety. There’s a lot of concern over the lack of regulation and research on the risks of nanotech in food. Another issue is the possibility of the migration of nanoparticles from the package to the food. Still, the future possibilities for nanotechnology are endless. Kraft wants to come up with a smart “blob” that could become any kind of food with any kind of flavor using nanotech.

What do you think? Should the use of nanotechnology in the food and packaging industries be continued, or should there be stricter regulations imposed?

Sources:

DANOVICH, T. K. (2013) The Big Picture on Nano-Foods. [Online] Available from: http://www.foodpolitic.com/the-big-picture-on-nano-foods/. [Accessed: 28th April 2015].

NANOWERK. (2015) Definition – What is nanotechnology?. [Online] Available from: http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology/introduction/introduction_to_nanotechnology_1.php. [Accessed: 28th April 2015].

ORTIZ, C. (2014) Wait, There’s Nanotechnology in My Food?. [Online] Available from: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/a12790/wait-theres-nanotechnology-in-my-food-16510737/. [Accessed: 28th April 2015].

Machines vs Humans

The use of technology and IT in the food and beverage industry is inevitable. As customers are becoming more tech-savvy they can easily get the information they want and expect quick service with superior quality products at a decent and attractive price. Information technology can help food businesses achieve this.

Restaurants will have digital menus, self-ordering systems and automated kitchens. Drive thrus and small kiosks will soon have cashless payment systems. These will make the restaurants more efficient, reducing its costs and giving it a competitive advantage. Self-ordering systems can remember a customer’s preferences, something humans can’t do.

People may think that using IT will make cashiers and waiters lose their jobs. But they actually don’t. Technology will replace their jobs, but they will be assigned to new jobs in customer service. Knowledgeable employees are still needed to ensure good customer service and support. Employees serving in customer service roles can drive sales from within the store, not just from behind the cash register. Technology just makes their job more efficient.

In the end, it is the human touch that differentiates one company’s service from the other.

Source:

Information Technology in the Food Industry (n.d.) Retrieved April 27, 2015 from http://www.foodtechie.com/2008/12/information-technology-in-food-industry.html

Still Edible: Food Freshness after its ‘Best-Before’ Date

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In the Philippines alone, at least one out of seven individuals experiences starvation. This is a sad fact considering that a lot of food gets wasted because it was not consumed before its “best-before” date which is just an estimate. In response to this, researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology, Universita di Catania, CEA-Liten, and STMicroelectronics have invented a circuit that tests if the contents of the food are still safe to eat. The plastic analog-digital converter, as this invention is called, can monitor the acidity level/spoilage of the food. This brings applications in food and technology closer to our fingertips as it converts analog signals into digital form.

Source:

Invention opens the way to packaging that monitors food freshness. (2013, February 27). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://phys.org/news/2013-02-packaging-food-freshness.html

Move Over Humans- There’s a New Chef in Town

moley-robotic-chef

Imagine an extra set of hands in the kitchen–but not one of a human’s. Technology these days have made a robot cook possible, actually not just a robot cook but a robot kitchen. It comes with a stove, oven, sink, utensils, and of course, a pair of arms. The arms were made to mimic a human’s actions while cooking. While this robot can do many things such as the slicing, and the cooking itself, it still doesn’t render you useless. You must prepare the ingredients, and place them in set locations. Besides this, you can just watch it do everything else. While the robot seems to be able to do much, there is one specific limitation when it comes to cooking, which is hard to reproduce–this is tasting. Further research is still being made to make these robots more human-like, but for now, I doubt that no one would decline a food tasting.

Sources:

Starr, M. (2015, April 20). Robotic kitchen will be your own personal chef – CNET. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.cnet.com/news/robotic-kitchen-will-be-your-own-personal-chef/

Biggs, J. (2015, April 16). A Pair Of Robot Hands To Help In The Kitchen. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/16/a-pair-of-robot-hands-to-help-in-the-kitchen/#.vpuqnx:amRy

Demystifying Food Labels is No Longer a Mystery

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A growing number of children have allergies, intolerances, and illnesses like diabetes that restrict their diet and make grocery shopping for them difficult. If having to check the ingredients list of a product one by one already seems cumbersome to you, imagine having to repeat the process for every single item you toss in your grocery cart!

Lucky for us, Ellen Badinelli experienced the same dilemma and created ScanAvert, an app that helps consumers with dietary restrictions choose groceries that will be safe for them in a efficient and reliable way.

So how exactly does ScanAvert work? After you input personal health information and your food preferences on the mobile application, you can start scanning the barcode labels of food and beauty products with the help of your smartphone to see if these Items fit in or go against your specifications.

Nowadays, there are other alternatives to ScanAvert such as Fooducate, ShopWell, and Ingredient1, making things even easier for shoppers who have food allergies or who want to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Sources:

Bayer, H. (2012, March 29). ScanAvert: The Future of Shopping with Dietary Restrictions | Food Tech Connect. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.foodtechconnect.com/2012/03/29/scanavert-the-future-of-shopping-with-dietary-restrictions/

Gilpin, L. (2015, January 27). Photos: The tech that’s demystifying food labels. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.techrepublic.com/pictures/photos-the-tech-thats-demystifying-food-labels/1/

Meijers, N. (2014, December 18). 2015 Food Trends: Grocery Delivery Explodes, Gadgets Enable Transparency More | Food Tech Connect. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.foodtechconnect.com/2014/12/18/2015-food-trends-grocery-delivery-explodes-gadgets-food-transparency/

Supermarket of the Future!

rfid
Up until now, it has been too expensive to track every item in a store from a box of chocolate to a bottle of water down to the individual level.

Item-level RFID tracking has long been the holy grail of supply chain management, especially in the retail industry.The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology would give grocery shopping a whole new meaning. RFID is a device that serves the same purpose as a bar code; it provides a unique identifier for that object.  A significant advantage of RFID devices over the others is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. 

Hannah Ostman, an expert in Auto-ID: Barcode and RFID, said, “Implementing RFID in the grocery supply chain changes many work processes. We are talking about a system where grocery items are scanned and tracked through the distribution channel, perhaps even during production, all the way to the store backroom. In some cases the tracking continues even on the shop floor, for instance when the grocery items are stored in their transport items (e.g. fruit).”

Perhaps not quite yet for the Philippines, but we’re definitely on the way.

Sources:

“Enterprise Efficiency – David Wagner – Item-Level RFID Tracking Close to Reality.” Page Not Found – Power More. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.enterpriseefficiency.com/author.asp?section_id=1151&doc_id=239312.

“Item-level Tagging in the Grocery Industry – Are We There Yet? – RFID Arena.” RFID Now – RFID Arena. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.rfidarena.com/2013/4/2/item-level-tagging-in-the-grocery-industry-are-we-there-yet.aspx.

“RFID and AIDC News: The Seven Reasons RFID Will Eventually Win in the Supply Chain.” Supply Chain Digest – The Best in Supply Chain Management and Logistics News, Insight, Education, Opinion and Education. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.scdigest.com/ONTARGET/11-07-27-3.PHP?cid=4772&ctype=content.

WIRED. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.wired.com/2010/03/rfid/.

All You Can Eat Bottles

Water that fits in your hand!

It sounds like something borne out of science fiction, but Rodrigo Garcia Gonzales has actually come up with edible water bottles! His invention, named the Ooho, has a spherical shape, and is composed of two layers; one of calcium carbonate solution and another made with brown algae solution. This composition makes sure that the Ooho is both biodegradable and edible.

The secret behind this creation is a culinary technique known as spherification, used to make treats like the pearls in milk tea. Taste respondents have said that the jelly coating is not very delicious, although it is indeed edible. Despite their tepid response, we remain hopeful that with further development, the Ooho can once and for all replace plastic bottles.

Sources:

Liam Corless (2014). Edible water bottle that looks like breast implant is one of 5 ideas that could change the world. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/edible-water-bottle-looks-like-4264055. [Last Accessed 27 April 2015].

Tuan C. Nguyen (2014). Here’s A Water Bottle You Can Actually Eat. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/Heres-A-Water-Bottle-You-Can-Actually-Eat-180951185/?no-ist. [Last Accessed 27 April 2015].