In October 2015, the so-called “The Performance Project” of Vienna, Austria developed a system to experiment with 3D printed food for elderly patients with dysphagia. Dysphagia is the symptom of difficulty in deglutition, although it is sometimes referred to as a “condition” in and of itself. Diets for elderly patients with dysphagia usually include puréed and pre-mashed food, which is as unappetizing in taste and texture as one would imagine!
The “The Performance Project” project creates custom meals for specific patients, including the tastes and textures an individual patient prefers, as well as accounting for a patient’s nutritional needs. Food materials can be custom mixed to have the 3D printed food replicate the texture of its non-puréed counterpart, while being able to properly dissolve in the patient’s mouth.
The “The Performance Project” system was made into an entirely automated workflow controlled by an algorithm created by Information and Communication Technology company Sanalogic of Germany. Starting with a program that enables the patient to order their preferred foodstuffs, their profile stores any dietary requirements approved by their doctor, as well as their required textures. The “information” is sent to a facility of the project’s partner company Foodjet of Nijmegen of The Netherlands. Each meal is developed and printed into a special tray that is covered, frozen and dispatched to the care facility, where it is reheated in a special container that is designed to avoid cold spots.
All the food is made from natural ingredients that are puréed or liquified. A gelling agent is added to create the texture and is adjusted for the patient’s needs or the foodstuff being printed, including any of the patient’s medical needs. A patient’s “food profile” can be adjusted at will to optimize their diet for their current needs.
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