PERFORMANCE 3D printed food. Source: PERFORMANCE
PERFORMANCE 3D printed food. Source: PERFORMANCE

Many elderly people suffer from dysphagia, a condition that causes difficulty in swallowing. As a result, many elderly people need to puree their food, which can be less appetizing and can lead to lost social time at the dinner table.

However, researchers in Europe are working on a solution with 3D printed food. The 3D printed food can be made to fit the nutritional needs of each person, while retaining the shape and flavor of traditionally prepared meals.

The European Union (EU) launched the PERFORMANCE project in 2012 in an effort to develop holistic, personalized food supply for frail elderly in nursing homes to help create healthier lives.

“People are often fed 'porridge-like food' which has been pureed and mixed together from a variety of ingredients,” said Matthias Kück, the Chief Executive of Biozoon Food Innovations in Germany, who is coordinating the EU-funded PERFORMANCE project.

“This can feel frustrating— especially when the plates of fellow residents are filled with chicken fillets and vegetables,” Kück said. “Meals are the most important social event in a nursing home—it is when they meet together, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

PERFORMANCE is working on a 3D food printer and texturing systems to create appetizing meals. The 3D printer uses liquefied food that is deposited layer by layer. A gelatin, currently being developed, is added to the liquid to bind the layers of liquid food. The 3D printed food is so soft that it melts in your mouth.

“The look and taste of the end product matches the original food item,” explains Kück. “But the texture is soft and gel-like. It dissolves easily in the mouth so that it is safe to eat for people with mastication or swallowing problems,” he adds.

“This is the time to focus our efforts on projects like PERFORMANCE,” says Kück. “Because demographic development means the number of people who would benefit from its outcome is growing larger and it is up to us to ensure they get the quality of life they deserve,” he concludes.

The PERFORMANCE 3D food printer is expected to be ready in 2015. This 3D food printer will likely help many people regain enjoyment in their meals.