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Posted: Sep 27, 2010
Centre for Food Safety conducts risk study on nanotechnology in food
(Nanowerk News) The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has recently conducted a risk assessment study in the form of a literature review on the potential safety issues associated with the application of nanotechnology in the food sector. A CFS spokesman said that in view of the accelerating development of nanotechnology in the food industry, the study aimed to review the basic principles, application and the potential health implications associated with the use of nanotechnology in the food sector, particularly on food and food contact materials incorporated with nanomaterials (NMs). While there is currently no internationally agreed definition for nanotechnology, it is usually applied to the process of controlling the size and shape of materials at the atomic and molecular scale.
Generally, nanotechnology deals with structures sized between approximately 1 and 100 nanometer in at least one dimension. The spokesman said that nanotechnology in the food industry is mainly applied in aspects such as adding nanoparticles into shaped objects and films to improve properties of the food packaging materials; nanoencapsulation of food ingredients and additives; and processing and formulation of food ingredients to form nanostructures. Methods for detection and description of NMs in food, however, are not readily available.
In many instances, claims about the presence of NMs in food products could not be verified and people have to rely on information provided by the industry, producers and marketing organisations. The spokesman noted that according to the study results, no general conclusion can be made on the safety of nanofood because of the dynamic nature of NMs. "At present, there is no tenable evidence that food and food contact materials derived from nanotechnology is any safer or more dangerous than their conventional counterparts.
Neither is there any evidence to prove that consumption of nanomaterials is detrimental to human health." He said,"The World Health Organisation (WHO) commented that as for all new materials used in food and food processing, the potential health and environmental risks of nanoscale materials need to be assessed before they are introduced into food." "The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO convened an expert meeting. The experts recommended the FAO/WHO to encourage innovative and interdisciplinary researches which may lead to novel risk assessment strategies for the application of nanotechnologies in food," he added. In the light of these findings, the CFS advised the food trade to ensure that products on sale are safe for human consumption and refrain from selling any nanomaterials which have not undergone risk assessment.
As for consumers, they should maintain a balanced diet and buy food from reliable suppliers. Under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), the principle that all food intended for sale should be fit for human consumption would also apply to nanotechnology-derived food, he noted.
The spokesman said: "There is currently no comprehensive guidance developed particularly for the safety assessment of NMs in food. Regulatory controls vary from country to country. The CFS will continue to monitor closely international trends regarding the application of nanotechnology in food products, discussions on safety issues, and the latest developments for possible follow-up action." Details of the risk assessment study are available on the CFS website.