Food is where our nutrition comes from and what keeps our biological mechanism functioning. As we rely on food for survival, a huge food industry has been developed and is consistently growing. Chemistry is closely related to this industry. From food production, its processing and preservation, to its quality inspection, chemistry plays a crucial role in almost every sector along the food supply chain and contributes much to the modern food system. As the technology develops, the food production is more efficient, the preservation period longer and the products are of better quality.

Synthetic food


More and more food is needed to feed the ever-expanding population. Nevertheless, traditional farming requires a massive amount of resources including water, time, and land. On top of that, it contributes largely to carbon emissions. Therefore, instead of agricultural expansion, alternative methods to produce food are needed. Ongoing research focuses on the synthetic production of food. In the future, food might be produced from the labs and chemical plants, instead of from farms and lands.


Recent research directions


Making plant-based meat more 'meaty' — with fermented onions    link

Food producers often add flavor to make plant-based meat alternatives taste meatier. Researchers aim to find a way to create meaty aromas from vegetables or spices using fungi to produce meaty flavors and odors from synthetic sources. They fermented various fungal species with various foods and found that meaty aromas were only generated from foods in the Allium family, such as onions and leeks which contain bis(2-methyl-3-furyl).


Synthesize sugar from carbon dioxide    link

Chinese scientists utilize high-concentration carbon dioxide, other raw materials and catalysts to obtain four types of sugars: glucose, allulose, tagatose, and mannose. The efficiency of sugar synthesis in this study was 0.67 grams per liter per hour, more than 10 times higher than previous results worldwide.

Food inspection


Notwithstanding that the analytical techniques are sophisticated enough to detect most of the chemical and biological contaminants in food with state-of-the-art spectrometers in testing laboratories, such an analysis costs a lot of money and time to be done and is often destructive. To carry out the inspection in a more efficient and affordable way, chemists are looking for improvements in spectroscopic techniques.
Apart from that, chemists also contribute to this area by designing chemical probes and establishing analytical chemistry protocols for detections of new contaminants, such as new antibiotics, never-before-seen viruses and their variants, etc., present in complex matrices.


Recent research directions



Mixing antioxidant and protein generate the anti-inflammatory effect    link

Polyphenols, a member of anti-oxidant are commonly found in food or the human body. Researchers are interested in the effect of mixing polyphenols and proteins. Protein in food like milk, meat, and coffee can bind to polyphenols, a fair experiment has been conducted by researchers and they found that the binding generate an inhibitory effect that is two times stronger anti-inflammatory effect in cell.



Application of immunoassay technology in food inspection    link

Immunoassays have achieved mainstream application in the rapid inspection field due to their ability to provide quick and reliable results. The development of rapid detection methods has significantly improved food safety laws and national standards in several ways.



Artificial intelligence and food safety    link

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more popular in different aspects. The University of California Davis has developed an AI-enabled method called YOLO, which can detect and identify bacterial micro-colonies in romaine lettuce. This method, which can identify 11 out of 12 lettuce samples contaminated with E. coli, is simple, cost-effective, and rapid.

Food packaging and processing


In markets nowadays, food package is widely applied to essentially all kinds of food, from fresh vegetables to processed food, in order to increase the shelf life by keeping the food away from oxygen, moisture, bacteria, and other contaminants present in the environment during transport. The most abundant material used in food packaging is believed to be plastic wrap made from low-density polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride. However, there are potential health and environmental concerns behind the abuse of plastic wrap. In light of this, chemists are inventing more environment-friendly and safer materials to be used in food packaging.

In addition, chemists are seeking methods to process the food such that the quality can be enhanced.


Recent research directions


Replacing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances     link

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of chemicals used in a range of products, including fast-food packaging and non-stick pans. However, their durability means they remain in the environment for many years and can enter the food chain, posing a threat to humans and animals alike. Research has shown that PFAS can interfere with cell communication, affect the immune system, and reduce fertility in animals. Concerns over their impact have led scientists to investigate alternatives to PFAS.


Sunflower extract fights fungi to keep blueberries fresh   link

Sunflower stem extracts could be used as a natural biocontrol agent to prevent postharvest disease in fruit. Diterpenoids in sunflower stems are extracted by methanol and ethyl acetate. They found 17 diterpenoids are active against gray mold and protect almost half of blueberries from mold growth over six days.


New biodegradable plastics are compostable in your backyard    link
New bioplastics made entirely from powdered blue-green cyanobacteria cells, known as spirulina are developed. These bioplastics degrade on the same timescale as a banana peel in a backyard compost bin and have mechanical properties comparable to single-use, petroleum-derived plastics. The bioplastics have a degradation profile similar to organic waste and are on average 10 times stronger than the traditional method. According to the research findings, food packaging like bottles or trays are also possibly be disposable.


Food packaging materials with special reference to biopolymers     link

Although biodegradable food packaging materials are being developed to replace conventional polymer-based packing methods, they still face a wide range of challenges. So research developed biosensors, which would embedded in food packing materials to monitor different parameters. Single-walled carbon nanotubes and diamine oxidase sensors which detect probable carcinogens in food samples, are discussed in the article.