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Last Update: 2018-06-15   Source: Research Headlines
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Pioneering food packaging

EU-funded researchers are pilot testing a pioneering, nano-based packaging material that releases antimicrobial oils to slow food spoilage and prevent foodborne illnesses. This could bolster Europe's efforts to tackle food waste and food safety.


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Every year, we throw away or waste a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of spoiled food, which causes major economic loss and significant harm to the world’s natural resources. Modern packaging and the use of preservatives have come a long way but what if there was a better way to keep food fresh for longer and reduce how much of it ends up as rubbish?

Researchers from the EU-funded NANOPACK project have found a solution for extending food shelf life by using smart antimicrobial surfaces applied to active food packaging. They are now running five pilot production runs of this new polymer composite, based on tiny nanotube formations, to test its technical, industrial and commercial viability.

The project is also considering legal, safety and environmental aspects, as well as consumer and retailer acceptance of the new nanotech-inspired packaging.

Safe and smart

Working at the nanoscale, the team is able to form tiny materials based on natural ‘halloysite nanotubes’ (HNTs), which act as reliable and safe carriers that can deliver minute amounts of an EU-approved bioactive agent or oil to stop food from going bad or becoming mouldy. Due to their minuscule size, HNTs are unable to migrate from the food packaging into food itself, which makes them a safe and natural preservative.

Pioneering antimicrobial food packaging not only improves food safety and reduces food waste – major societal challenges – but this innovation also has the potential to boost European competitiveness and manufacturing growth.

“Better performing, safer and ‘smarter’ products will position Europe as the leader in food nanotechnology,” according to the NANOPACK researchers.


Project details

  • Project acronym: NANOPACK
  • Participants: Israel (Coordinator), Belgium, Austria, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, France, Germany, Netherlands
  • Project number: 720815
  • Total costs: € 8 799 793
  • EU contribution: € 7 665 218
  • Duration: January 2017 to December 2019

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