Belgium at the cutting edge of food printing


Using a cross between a traditional printer and a pastry chef's piping bag, 3D printing now offers not just culinary creativity but also the possibility of turning powdered foods into their solid form, gaining acceptance for ingredients by making them more appetising and even creating processed products.

Belgium can currently pride itself on being the first country to create a successful 3D print of a lettuce, thanks to University of Leuven (KU Leuven). Although nobody has yet tasted the printing (the products have not yet been approved for consumption), according to researcher Valérie Vancauwenberghe, the project may make a difference in the scientific world by making it possible to control the structure and texture of a meal as well as its vitamin and mineral content.

Food printing uses new and very simple technologies. Valérie Vancauwenberghe explains that a real lettuce contains 100 million living cells per millilitre and the printed lettuce contains one million living cells per millilitre; despite the as yet insufficient number of cells, food printing is without doubt an emerging technology. With practical applications in everyday life, this technique will allow us to improve our culinary practices as well as enhance taste, protect an ingredient within a structure and create new food concepts. Its artistic and gastronomic applications are therefore clear, but it also has prospective uses in the medical field, particularly in helping patients to swallow. 

The goal of this technology is to provide solutions for feeding the world ethically, sustainably and nutritionally and avoiding waste. 3D food printing therefore meets a vital need to find a better way of feeding humanity.