German researchers have this week unveiled a major step forward in 3D food printing. Developed by Bremerhaven-based Biozoon Food Innovations as part of an EU-backed project known as PERFORMANCE, Smoothfood could help those with digestive difficulties to eat full, healthy, flavoursome meals. In particular, people suffering from dysphasia, a condition common in the elderly that causes food to route to the lungs instead of the stomach, could benefit from the easily consumed cuisine.
While, currently, people with dysphasia are forced to take their meals in a porridge-like form, Smoothfood puts another, tastier option on the menu. The process is surprisingly straightforward, though hinges on an important secret ingredient that Biozoon are, for the time being, not sharing with anybody. Researchers bind together foodstuffs with diner-specific nutrients using a mysterious solidifying agent, the details of which are currently under wraps.
This mixture is then printed through a Foodjet device, layer by layer, upon a specially developed plate. That secret ingredient hides the lines between the layers, plus holds it all together in a stable structure. It can be printed in a shape that resembles the original foodstuff, though its softness means even those with digestive issues will be able to eat it comfortably.
It currently uses cauliflower, peas, chicken, pork, pasta and potatoes, though the team are working on adding other ingredients to the mix.
Sandra Fostner, Project Manager at Biozoon, describes how the method works:
The printer is controlled by software where you can program, more or less, every kind of shape. The printing material itself will provide the taste since it’s normally spiced food puree, combined with the newly developed texturising system that will be printed onto the plate. This means that with the printer we cannot adjust the taste, only the shape.
What is perhaps most remarkable of all about SmoothFood is that, according to the people behind it, it actually tastes pretty good. Certainly the EU thinks it has a future, as its invested 3 million Euro (the best part of 2.5 million quid) into the project.