Anyone who’s worked in the culinary industry knows how difficult it is to create a truly gluten-free dish in a traditional kitchen. Cross-contamination is too large of a risk, especially when an amount as small as just 0.015 milligrams of gluten can trigger a negative reaction. Could 3D printing be the answer to finding healthy, gluten-free options in restaurants?
3D Printing Food: How Does It Work?
The 3D printer could very well be a staple appliance in the kitchen of the future. Until recently, 3D printed foods were mostly limited to novelty, sugar-based creations. But companies have started exploring making food that you could actually eat on a regular basis. These machines can create delicious, healthy meals by printing them out one layer at a time.
3D printing food makes food preparation easier, more sustainable, and more customizable. The technology allows you to 3D print anything you can purée. Because 3D printed foods are made from pastes, they’re ideal for people who have difficulty swallowing and chewing. 3D printing can also make consumption more sustainable, as it can use alternative sources of meat and “ugly” foods that are rejected based on their appearance alone. And because it simplifies food preparation, it’s easier to customize foods according to a person’s tastes and needs. For people with food sensitivities like celiac disease — something that affects over 3 million Americans — this new technology could be a godsend.
3D Printing Gluten-Free Foods
The risk of cross-contamination can make mealtimes stressful instead of pleasurable — especially if you’re dining in a restaurant. For people with extreme gluten allergies, something as small as a crumb could trigger a serious reaction. Here’s where this new technology could come in.
Organizations like Italian 3D printing company WASP are working on printing gluten-free foods for people with gluten sensitivities. Because preparing gluten-free food in the same spaces used to prepare normal food risks cross-contamination, having a 3D printing machine dedicated to celiac food preparation could make mealtimes much safer for people with allergies. Basically, WASP designed a machine that would let restaurants have a mini gluten-free kitchen within their regular kitchens.
How Does The Gluten-Free 3D Printer Work?
WASP collaborated with gluten-free chef Francesco Favorito to come up with a gluten-free pastry mix. This mix would be piped out by a modified 3D printer pipe, which used a heated extruder to pre-cook each layer as it was extruded. Then, the dish would be taken to a normal oven, where it would finish cooking. This technology isn’t just beneficial for people with gluten allergies, but can also be used for those with other dietary needs.
Gluten-free 3D printing still needs plenty of research and development. WASP, in particular, needs to ensure that their extruder is compatible with sanitary regulations. They also need to design a more intuitive user interface, and possibly create a way to cook the foods without using the main oven in a traditional kitchen. The technology isn’t quite there yet, but gluten-free 3D printing is making huge strides in the right direction.