Just when you think you’ve heard everything, another technologic advancement makes you think you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up in Alice’s Wonderland. In Germany, residents who have chewing and swallowing issues are eating 3-D printed entrees. That’s right, the food is “printed” but it’s real food.
Pureed foods are not often satisfying to residents who have difficulty chew and swallowing. Using fresh liquefied ingredients, meat, potatoes and vegetables (Smoothfood) are pushed from cartridges to a 3-D printer manufactured by FoodJet Printing Systems, and out comes a meal that is then served to nursing home residents on paper plates.
The 3-D food printer resembles a normal inkjet printer. The liquefied ingredients are put into cartridges, and the material is printed in layers on special plates. Sandra Forstner, the project manager at Biozoon, the Dutch company coordinating the 3-D food printing project, explained in an article that the printer is controlled by software that can program nearly every conceivable food shape.
Forstner notes, however, that it’s important that the printed layers merge without noticeable delineation so that the food maintains its density. According to the article, the food tastes authentic because the printing material in the cartridges combines with the texturizing system to provide the flavor.
Chefs need not worry—yet. This is still a concept and the project hopes to have a fixed production site and then deliver the finished meal to the consumer. In the future, it might be possible to install a 3-D printer in large skilled nursing organizations.
While the system is still being evaluated, some nursing home residents with dysphagia are sampling the benefits of printed food. It’s an interesting concept and technology that is being tested in Europe, but don’t fire your chef yet.
Take a look at printed food here.