andrew schneider investigates

March 13, 2008

Scientist wants food nanotechnology free

Filed under: FDA,Food additives,Food labeling,Food Safety,Public health legislation — Andrew Schneider @ 10:18

The world of nanotechnology may be wondrous indeed, but some public health specialists insist the U.S. is lagging behind other countries when it comes to questioning the safety of the commercial use of this minuscule material, especially in food. The FDA says responsibility for determining the safety of nanoparticles used in food falls to the manufacturer.

FDA Press Officer Michael Herndon told me today that “Substances that are added to food, or are reasonably expected to migrate to food from food packaging, will generally require premarket approval if they are engineered nanoparticles.”

“Under such circumstances, industry would bear the burden of demonstrating the safety of the material under its intended conditions of use,” the spokesman added, and said more detail scould be found in an agency report on the technology.

But down under, Sam Bruschi, an Australian government toxicologist who has reviewed nanotechnology safety issues for the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, insists a moratorium must be imposed immediately.

“One of my major recommendations is that because nanoparticles have inherently different properties to their bulk scale equivalents they should be treated as separate entities in terms of handling and regulation,” he says in a story in the Sidney Morning Herald. “My position is quite clear: they should be embargoed until we have the necessary regulations to assess their toxicity – especially in anything you’re going to ingest.”

Herald reporter Michael Lallo offers a detailed explanation of nanotechnology and presents research from Friends of the Earth, which released its report on the issue in Washington earlier this week.

Lallo writes about milk cartons that glow when their contents turn sour. A sinful-tasting, non-fat ice-cream with loads of fiber, protein and nutrients. Programmable soft drinks, simply select the flavor and pull the tab.

A good starting point in understanding nanotechnology is that a human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide. One nanoparticle is just 100 nanometers wide.


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