Nanotechnology in the food packaging industry and its effect on human heath


Dr.Haifa Ali Awahd/Karbala university- Agriculture college

 Nanomaterials are increasingly being used in the food packaging industry due to the range of advanced functional properties they can bring to packaging materials. Nanotechnology-enabled food packaging can generally be divided into three main categories (Silvestre et al. 2011; Duncan et al. 2011). improved packaging – whereby nanomaterials are mixed into the polymer matrix to improve the gas barrier properties, as well as temperature and humidity resistance of the packge. Intelligent and smart packaging designed for sensing biochemical or microbial changes in the food, for example detecting specific pathogens developing in the food, or specific gases from food spoiling. Some “smart” packaging has also been developed to be used as a tracing device for food safety or to avoid counterfeit.

Ensuring consumer safety…

In terms of consumer safety, it is important to evaluate the potential migration of packaging constituents into food and to assess their potential hazard for a comprehensive risk assessment. However, to date very few studies have been published regarding the effects of nanomaterials upon ingestion, or the potential interaction of nanomaterial-based food contact materials (FCMs) with food components (Silvestre et al. 2011).  Echegoyen et al. (2013) studied the migration of silver from three different types of nanocomposites into food simulants, including an analysis of the form of silver migrating (ions or particles). Their results showed that silver migrated into food simulants and that acidic food presented the highest level of migration. Moreover, heating was observed to increase migration, with microwave heating inducing more migration than a classical oven. The authors suggest that migration of silver could occur through two different mechanisms: the detachment of silver nanoparticles from the composites, or the oxidative dissolution of silver ions.

Cushen et al. (2013) studied the migration of silver and copper from nanocomposites, used for their anti-microbial properties in food packaging. The authors showed that the percentage of nanofiller in the nanocomposites was one of the most critical parameters driving migration, more so than particle size, temperature or contact time. The authors developed a model to study migration of particles from food packaging. This model was a good predictor of the level of migration of nano silver and to a lesser extent of nanocopper into food stuff and, when further developed and validated, could potentially be of benefit to industry by reducing the time and costs usually associated with migration studies )Commission Regulation EU 2011).  

Future directions…

These studies indicate the potential for nanomaterials to migrate from FCMs into foodstuffs, with the rate of migration potentially associated with the percentage of nanofiller present in the composite material. There remains is a need for further migration and toxicological studies in order to ensure safe development of nanotechnologies in the food packaging industry (Maisanaba 2014).


Commission Regulation (EU) No. 10/2011 of 14 of January 2011 on

Plastic Materials and Articles Intended to Come in Contact with Food. Official Journal of the European Union.

Cushen, M., Kerry, J., Morris, M., Cruz-Romero, M., Cummins, E. 2014. Evaluation and Simulation of silver and coper nanoparticle migration from polyethylene nanocomposites to food and an associated exposure assessment. J Agric food Chem., Vol. 62(6)1403-1411.

Duncan, T.V., 2011. Applications of nanotechnology in food packaging and food safety: barrier materials, antimicrobials and sensors. Colloid interface Sci., vol.363(1) : 1-24.

Echegoyen, Y., Nerín, C., 2013. Nanoparticle release from nano silver antimicrobial food containers. Food Chem. Toxicol., Vol.62, pp 16-22.

Maisanaba, S., Pichardo, S., Jordá-Beneyto, M., Aucejo, S., Cameán, A.M., Jos, Á., 2014a. Cytotoxity and mutagenicity studies on migration extracts from Nano composites with potential use in food packaging. Food Chem. Toxicol, Vol.66, pp. 366-372.

Silvestre, C., Duraccio, D., and Sossio, C. 2011. Food packaging based on polymer nanomaterials, Progress in polymer Science, vol.36. pp1766-1782.