Food “Hot Off the Printing Press”: Insights Into 3-D Printed Food

Theodore Harrington, MJLST Managing Editor

Would you food hot off the 3D printing press? In Jaspers Tran’s article, 3-D Printed Food, he explores the potential legal issues surrounding the commercialization of 3D printed food. (see here).

The article suggests that “. . . the 3D printer may become the fundamental daily appliance in every household . . . .” The pros are easy to see—As the demand for food increases at an exponential rate, the ability to create food quickly and avoid the current environmental impacts caused by food production would be a game-changer. The benefits here are fairly obvious and easy to wrap our heads around. However, large barriers still remain.

A tougher point for me to grasp is Tran’s suggestion that 3D printing will solve issues related to malnutrition, particularly over-nutrition, or obesity. Tran seems to leap from personalized nutritional food (tailored to an individual’s exact nutritional needs) to an obesity solution. This reminds me of the old adage, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Even if 3D printers end up in every household, my gut-feeling is that it will be a very long time before people are accepting of the idea of eating food that was just spit out of a machine (although there is a large amount of processing in today’s food, it goes on behind closed doors. Ignorance is bliss.). As Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Blink, the way we taste food is as much psychological as it is physical (see example of declining sales in a pork product when a life-like pig was placed on packaging instead of a cartoon pig).

Something to chew on.