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Report: Little to Fear from Nanoparticles in Food & Packaging

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Report: Little to Fear from Nanoparticles in Food & Packaging

June 20
12:53 2016

mangoes-1466878059Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has just released two long-awaited reports on thesafety of nanoparticles in food, one on additives and one on packaging. Both reports were based on comprehensive surveys of the scientific literature and relevant patents.

The reports were commissioned in 2015 and were written by one of Australia’s leading toxicologists, Dr Roger Drew, and his colleague Tarah Hagen.

The conclusions of both reports is that the most common nanoscale materials likely to be present in food or food packaging – silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide and metallic silver – do not pose significant health risks.

In terms of food, many common foods already contain natural nanoparticles, but FSNAZ was specifically interested in “engineered” or manufactured nanoparticles and their effects. Wheras the packaging studies – where nanomaterials are used in packaging – have shown that nanomaterials can migrate from the packaging into the food inside.

Ingested nanoparticles can, and do, get into the body in places where bulk materials cannot, but there is no evidence that mere size is responsible for the effects observed in laboratory studies. Any impact is caused by soluble materials or colloids, such as gels, that are formed by interaction of the nanomaterials with aggressive components, such as food acids or body fluids.

However, it was noted that there have been few studies of the effects of nanoparticles on large populations of people. That said, nanomaterials have been used for many years, and there has been no evidence of harm.

While there is no sign that nanomaterials are used in food packaging in Australia or New Zealand, they are being used overseas. Some applications are adding nanoparticles of clay to make packaging more robust, or adding nanosilver as a disinfectant. Some future developments could involve nanoparticles that act as indicators, by changing colour for instance, if the contents deteriorate in quality over time.

These reports should reassure us that the scientific and empirical evidence to date suggests nanoparticles in food or food packaging pose low risk.

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