Nestle plans to create 'Star Trek-like food replicator'

By Alex Hudson
BBC News

image copyrightAP

Nestle, the biggest food company in the world, says it is planning to build a Star Trek-style machine which produces "food at the press of a button".

The firm has begun a large scientific operation to provide food individually tailored to a person's needs.

At Nestle's health institute (NIHS), more than 100 scientists are working on a number of projects.

They are trying to discover links between dietary deficiencies and serious illnesses like cancer.

A proportion of the population is deficient in one or more essential vitamin or mineral.

While not seen as a major issue by some, iodine along with vitamin D are seen as two key areas where action is needed.

Nestle says the solution to the problem is not through pills but with tailored foods that could be created in a machine for individuals.

"Out comes your food at the press of a button," NIHS chief Dr. Emmanuel Baetge told Bloomberg.

"If we do this right, it can be the next microwave in your kitchen."

NIHS already has a nutrition department making nutritional products for conditions like Alzheimer's and genetic disorders with a budget of $11bn (£6.5bn).

The project, codenamed Iron Man, is seen more as a short-term way to find out what is missing in diets and provide supplements to help.

The company says it is around 5-10 years away and could resemble the replicator that made meals on starships like the Enterprise in Star Trek.

"In future, these tools will help to better define the specific nutrient needs of people with different diets and lifestyles around the world," said NIHS researcher Serge Rezzi.

"In the past, food was just food. We're going in a new direction."

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