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Food Nanotech: What It Is and Why Do People Want to Pay Extra to See it on Food Labels?

Sarah Williams

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Sarah Williams | November 8, 2013 | 0

Food Nanotech and Food LabelsResearchers from the North Carolina State University and University of Minnesota have recently found out that more people in the US want their food labels to indicate whether food nanotechnology has been used on their food or its packaging and that these people are willing to pay extra for the information. So what’s so interesting about nanotechnology that people are willing to pay for it?

Food nanotechnology is a science that involves altering food on the molecular level. It also involves developing nanomaterials the size of about one-billionth of a meter that have different chemical, physical and biological properties, according to the FDA. The Nanotech Project Website cites canola oil that contains nanoparticles which prevent the entry of cholesterol into the bloodstream, and a chocolate milkshake that is yummier and healthier than the typical sugar-filled milkshake as examples of nanotechnology.

The FDA regulates food that incorporates nanotechnology. It states that the changes nanotechnology does to food may be “exciting but also merit examination.” It’s expected since all evolving technologies are not without limitations and are still imperfect.

The study, lead by Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, a Public Administration Professor at NC State University, was said to be the first in-depth focus group study aimed at gaining an understanding on how the general public view the use of  nanotechnology on the food they eat, according to the NC State University news release about the research.

The study gathered three groups of participants each in Minnesota and North Carolina. Researchers provided the participants information on nanotechnology after which the latter were asked questions on whether food labels should include nanotechnology details. The participants were surveyed again within the week.

Researchers specifically found out that 60 percent of the participants were willing to shell out 5 to 25 percent more of the food costs in order to find out more about the nanotechnology applied to their food. They would also like to know whether the emergent technology had been applied to their food packaging.

Examples of the application of nanotechnology on food packaging include the use of nanoscale polymers that keep oxygen out of packaging to prolong the product’s shelf life as well as sensors that would change colors when the food becomes spoiled, according to a Guardian report. Researchers are developing the sensors to someday be able to trigger the release of preservatives at the onset of food spoilage. These developments would definitely revolutionize food safety technologies, methods and training in the long run.

However, the survey didn’t aim to find out whether people are opposed to the use of nanotechnology per se even though the survey has successfully proven that people support the use of the said technology in prolonging the shelf life of food or making food healthier. We assume, however, that the participants are quite enthusiastic about the application of nanotechnology on their food as it means better food flavors and healthier options.

What about you? Do you find it awesome that nanotechnology can allow you to eat greasy or sugary food without worrying about its health consequences? Would you like to see nanotechnology information on your food label? Share your opinions with us in the comments section below!

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