The latest, greatest advances in food packaging technology, brought to you by the good folks at Nano Inc.
The plastic beer bottle, says nanotechnology analyst Peter Conley, has long been the Holy Grail of the global beer industry. A switch from glass and aluminum to plastic would dramatically cut costs for the big players. The problem: plastic bottles have a bad habit of letting oxgyen molecules get through when sitting on the shelf. This is bad for beer. Very, very bad.
Enter AMCOL, the largest producer of kitty litter in the world. AMCOL has devised a “nanocomposite” that solves the problem, keeping oxygen molecules out and carbon dioxide molecules in. So be prepared, a new era of plastic beer bottles is upon us.
Whether this is progress or not depends on a complex mix of aesthetics, logistics, and perspectives on the proper role of technology in our lives. If you’re Budweiser or Coors, anything that allows you to cut costs while maintaining the same horse-piss taste is considered progress. If you happen to savor the feel of an ice-cold glass bottle gripped firmly in your hand on a hot summer day, you might think otherwise. And if you’re worried that the wholesale application of nanotechnological science to food product packaging raises a host of potential safety questions that will make previous concerns over genetically modified crops seem like preschooler whining, well, maybe you should just give up beer altogether and stick to fresh wheat-grass juice.
But whatever you think, don’t imagine you can stop it. Plastic corks in wine bottles are already standard. Plastic beer bottles will not be denied.
And that’s just the beginning. “Smart” food packaging is coming, if one is to believe the predictions of those who are tracking nanotechnologically-driven innovations in the food industry. We’re talking plastic films that can detect when food is spoiling and nano-sized sensors designed to detect food pathogens. Worried about e-coli on your lettuce? NanoShield plastic wrap will protect you!
My mother taught me that if you want to know whether leftovers stored in the fridge have spoiled or not, the surefire test is to open up the container and give it a sniff. If it smells bad, throw it out, if not, you can eat it.
Seems simple enough. But what if you’ve got a bad cold and are stuffed up? And what does e coli smell like, exactly? And what if we just don’t trust the result of our own senses, and precipitously dump a half-drunk quart of milk down the drain because we’re afraid it might have gone sour? Wouldn’t it be great not to have to shoulder our own responsibility for vetting what we eat and drink, and instead rely on sub-microscopic helpers to do the work for us?
But who will vet the nanobots? The paradox inherent in relying on new technology to protect us from food pathogens is that very little research is being done to determine whether the nanoparticles themselves are safe to ingest. How ironic — to be poisoned by anti-microbial technology. And how potentially troubling — if critics like food investigative reporter extraordinaire Michael Pollan are correct, the industrialization of food production is itself contributing to outbreaks of e coli contamination and mad cow disease and the like. Instead of devising new nanomaterials to plug the dike, shouldn’t we just head over to the farmer’s market and buy our broccoli from someone we can look in the eye?
Don’t get me wrong — I love new technology, and I would be delighted to own Tupperware containers that start pulsing in bizarre colors when they detect mold growing inside their plastic perimeter. But nanobots that protect us from the consequences of our own mistakes seem more like a bandaid, than a solution.
But maybe I’m just in a bad mood because I don’t like the thought of drinking my beer out of a plastic bottle.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Biden cracks Obama teleprompter joke
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11