BACTERIA-busting boffins at the University of Lincoln have helped create a new “nanotechnology” which should keep diners safe from food poisoning.
Experts from the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at Holbeach have been working with Nottingham Trent University to design the anti-microbial spray coating for kitchen surfaces.
And now they say they are almost ready to show how it banishes bugs such as E. coli, listeria and salmonella.
Senior food manufacturing lecturer Mark Swainson said the work was just the tip of what the public would soon see to be a very large nanotech iceberg.
“Nanotechnology can be used for lots of applications – there’s hundreds and thousands of possibilities and they’re not all about tiny robots.
“This particular project involves embedding a chemical compound into food surface materials or applying it in spray-on coats to help to keep microbes at bay.
“We can’t say it kills everything, but it will kill or inhibit many microbes – we’ve particularly looked at pathogens that affect food such as E. coli, listeria and salmonella.”
The new technology is the culmination of three years of work between Nottingham-based nanotechnology expert Dr Fengge Gao and the university department.
“Dr Gao was trying to think how to apply his research to a wider range of industries and, as we are involved in food research, there seemed to be a natural fit,” said Mr Swainson.
“We started out initially looking at making food packaging – and that’s an idea that is now in the process of being commercialised.
“Then we went on to look at how that could be applied to all food preparation surfaces.
“Now, we’re at the proof of product stage – laboratory and factory testing – where we look to show that it all works before it’s put on the market.
“This sort of project shows the possible areas of work that the university can do to help industry.
“And I think what we’re going to see is a growing public awareness of the scope of opportunity that nanotechnology can offer across the world in both the home and industry.”
The project has been funded by one of five grants worth a total of more than £235,000 from the Food And Drink iNet, which co-ordinates support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands.
Dr Gao added that if all went well with the testing, the spray coating could have companies clamouring to use it.
“The success of the development could lead to immediate commercial application,” he said. “The technology does not require sophisticated manufacturing equipment and hence is suitable for both small and medium-sized enterprises, plus large manufacturers.”