Friday, December 16, 2011


Nano technology is indeed an exciting development about which manufacturing industry world over is pinning lot of hope in expanding the product portfolio further through this innovative process. Food industry is no exception to this feeling. Though the technology is based on sound scientific principles, how far its application in food processing and ingredient preparation will be safe is a big question that has no conclusive answer as of now. Here is a critique on this issue which must caution the industry against rushing head on to apply nano technology indiscriminately without thinking about potential consequences to consumer health. 

"Some of the industrial and consumer-product applications using nanoparticles border on the magical. But a growing number of solid scientific studies have, in the minds of many public health experts, justified hoisting caution flags as they repeatedly show that many nanoparticles are small enough to penetrate the skin, lungs and pass through the vital blood-brain barrier. The potential for lung cancer - especially from the inhalation of carbon nanotubes - has also surfaced in some studies. Nano is from the Greek word for dwarf and a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or a total of one sliver if you were to cut the period at the end of this sentence into 50,000 slices. "Consumers should be concerned that these tiny chemicals may already be in foods and food contact materials, without being publicly disclosed," says Jennifer Sass, senior scientist and nano authority for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Consumers can't even make informed choices when they don't know where these chemicals are, what they are, or how toxic they are. It's an outrageous violation of the public trust that companies are refusing to identify on the label the ingredients or food contact materials that are nano-sized, and FDA is letting them get away with it," Sass said. The report said that because of their small size, the "intentionally engineered" nanomaterials are able to go places in the body that larger particles cannot, and it warned: •New "nanofood" products should only be used if safety testing ensures that there are no negative impacts on human health or the environment. •Current regulatory controls are inadequate to assess or ensure safety. •The scientific consensus is that there is a lack of knowledge regarding how nanomaterials interact at the molecular or physiological levels and their potential impacts on health and the environment".

What is troubling the consumers is that there is no way to ascertain how many foods on the market shelves are made using nano technology or are there products containing nano particles as ingredients since the current labeling regulations do not provide for giving out this information. More over there is no way any Chemist can analyze a food prepared with nano technology or nano technology based ingredients and indict the manufacturer. The move by FDA of the US to declare nanotechnology based food ingredients as GRAS is highly irresponsible and is fraught with implications world over as many countries adopt many of the standards set by FDA in their own country blindly. It is time international agencies like the FAO and WHO step in and bring some sanity in this critical area.


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