Nano rules for foods?

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Concerns have been raised that a new European regulation forcing cosmetic manufacturers to list nanoparticles Hill be applied to food product labelling.

The decision made by the EU´s ingredients present in cosmetic products clearly indicated in the list of ingredients, by inserting the word “nano” in brackets after the ingredient listed.

Nanomaterial is defined as “an insoluble or bio-persistent and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nanometres”.

Nanomaterials may have different properties compared to the same substances at normal scale, so could have a substantial impact on foods in the future, in that they can enable better management of the functionalities of food ingredients, provided there is no safety risk attached to these changed properties. For example, engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) could have applications as food additives, enzymes, flavourings, and novel foods, as well as food contact materials and supplements.

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) scientific opinion published last year recommends that risk assessments should be undertaken case-by-case, but also that at present “a lack of validated test methodologies could make risk assessment of specific nano products very difficult and subject to a high degree of uncertainty.” The European Commission asked EFSE to prepare a “guidance document” on how to assess potential risks related to food-related uses of nanotechnology; the first draft of this document is due to be completed by July 2010, for consultation.

Nanomaterial research and development has not yet reached the mainstream food market inn the EU, but bread containing nanoparticles of fish oils is reported to be on sale in Australia.

Meanwhile in the UK, a House of Lords committee on nanotechnologies has called on the UK´s Food Standards Agency (FSA) to draw up a list of nanoderived foods.

“We believe there are many potential benefits to consumers and industries from nanotechnology in food and food packaging”, says Andrew Wadge, FSA´s chief scientist.

“However, we share the view that there is a lack of knowledge about the potential effects and impacts of nanomaterials on human health and the environment.

Openness and cooperation from the food industry and support from consumer groups will he needed, Wadge asserts, to ensure that any register provides information that consumers need.