Posted: February 5, 2009

House of Lords launches inquiry into nanotechnology food safety

(Nanowerk News) The British House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector. A sub-committee has been appointed to undertake the investigation, to be chaired by Lord Krebs.
The Committee has decided to look into the use of nanotechnologies in food at a time when their use in the production and manufacture of food and food packaging is in its infancy, with only a small number of products on the market globally. Many possible food applications are at a research stage and millions of dollars are being spent by both governments and industry to apply nanotechnologies in areas such as food processing, food safety and packaging.
The inquiry will focus on the use of nanotechnologies in food products, additives and supplements, as well as food contact packaging, food manufacturing processes, animal feed, pesticides and fertilisers and products that may come into contact with food, such as food containers and cooking utensils.
Questions on which the Committee is inviting evidence include:
  • What is the current state of nanotechnologies research and development in the UK and how does it compare to research being carried out in other countries?
  • What are the potential applications and benefits of nanotechnologies in the food sector?
  • What are the risks posed to consumers by the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector?
  • Is the regulatory framework for nanotechnologies and nanomaterials fit for purpose, and is there any inter-governmental co-operation on regulations and standards?
  • What is the current level of public awareness of the issues surrounding the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector?
  • Commenting Lord Krebs, Chairman of the Science and Technology Sub-Committee on Nanotechnologies and Food, said:
    "This is an area of the food industry that is being researched and advanced at a rapid rate. It is essential that we are aware of all the issues that surround the use of such technologies in the production of food in order that we can make informed decisions about the impacts and changes that an increased use of nanotechnologies might cause.
    "Our inquiry will explore four key aspects of the use of nanotechnologies: the state of the science and its current use in the food sector; health and safety implications; the regulatory framework, and public engagement and consumer information.
    "It is critical that the UK remains fully engaged in this fast developing field and plays a key role in the industry and its development. We intend to highlight those areas where our understanding of the use of nanotechnologies in food needs the most urgent attention, allowing us to take action to ensure appropriate steps are taken."
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