by Marion Nestle
Mar 26 2011

The latest on food nanotechnology periodically collects its posts about specific topics.  This one is called Nanotechnology – Challenges and Opportunities. Nanotechnology, this European industry site says, “offers the food processing and packaging industries significant gains in terms of performance, safety and functionality. But uncertainties remain over the long-term effects of exposure to nanomaterials.”

Indeed, they do.  As I have discussed previously, nanotechnology is the use of extremely small particles to do any number of things to food, food processing, and food packaging.   I’m still having a hard time knowing what to think about it.  So are others, apparently.

EFSA publishes draft guidance on nano risk assessment: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published draft guidance giving more specific risk assessment information regarding the use of nanotechnology in food…

Scientists developing ‘rechargeable’ antimicrobial layer for food processing surfaces: The germ-killing properties of a prototype nano-scale antimicrobial layer for food handling surfaces can be chemically ‘recharged’ every time it is rinsed with household bleach, said US scientists…

Assess risk from nano-pollution and antimicrobials in packaging – IFST: The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) has called for greater appraisal of the potential risks from the release into the environment of nanomaterials used in food packaging…

Nano-coated ‘killer paper’ developed to extend food shelf life: Israeli scientists have said their new nano-coated “killer paper” could be used in food packaging to combat bacteria such as E.coli to extend product shelf life…

New ISO standard gauges nano-toxicity risks: New guidelines from the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) have been published in a bid to help key industry players assess the possible risks presented by the burgeoning growth of nano-based products…

UK mulls confidentiality pact with industry over nano research: The Food Standard Agency (FSA) said it is considering signing confidentiality agreements with food and packaging companies in a bid to persuade them to share information on nanotechnology research…

I’m hoping for for more research, and soon.

  • Doc Mudd

    Definitely continued research (and development) is in order for this promising technology.

    We’ve benefited by reducing particle size of foods since the invention of the stone mortar and pestle. Every reason to expect continued benefits with nanotechnology.

    It does create yet one more technology the average scientific illiterate will not comprehend – sponsoring fear of the dark, knee-jerk scaremongering and one more venue to preach excessive precaution.

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  • Marisa

    Is it just me, or has the entire site’s text changed to italics? It makes the site very difficult to read.

  • Sheila

    sounds a bit spooky to me. would rather have my food fresh from a garden, washed in clean water, sans nanoparticles/bleach/extended life.

  • Daniel

    Nanoparticles Bioaccumulate Up the Food Chain

    Scientists at the University of Kentucky found that gold nanoparticles are taken up from the soil by tobacco plants, and then bioaccumulate in caterpillars feeding on the tobacco plants.

    Levels in the caterpillars were 10-fold higher than in the plants, the first evidence that nanoparticles can bioaccumulate up food chains.

    Source: “Nanoparticles Accumulate in Food Chain,” Chemical and Engineering News, December 20, 2010

  • Doc Mudd

    And we also bioaccumulate amino acids, vitamins A, D & K, various essential fatty acids. Nutrients vital to a healthy life.

    Bioaccumulation; that’s sort of the whole point of food chains in nature, isn’t it?

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  • Hank

    There is a vast difference between natural nanoparticles such as proteins and lab manufactured items such as gold particles, fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and the like. Those implying an equivalency are wrong at best. The science of manufactured nanoparticles is in its early stages and very little is known about how these devices interact with physiology. Anyone dismissive of the suspicion of these devices possibly have financial stakes surrounding the production and sales of these devices. This stance is very familiar ; sell before full characterization. History is rife with examples, thalidamide, DDT, CFCs, ad nauseum. Omega 3 fatty acids were the darling of doctors and marketing departments nationwide. Fred Hutchinson Cancer center published a follow up study confirming that these same fatty acids are responsible for high grade prostate cancer. Feel me Doc Mudd