urged for nano based materials
By Jane Byrne, 23-Jan-2009
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Legislation-urged-for-nano-based-materials
Switzerland’s Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-Swiss) has
called for the existing legislation on foods and chemicals to be adapted to
meet the demands of nanotechnology.
TA-SWISS, which describes its role as imparting knowledge that is as
independent as possible on the repercussions, opportunities and risks of new
technologies, has conducted a study into nano
packaging materials and food additives already in use in Switzerland.
Nanotechnology in the food sector, concludes that in view of the
international flows of goods, global or at least Europe-wide regulation is required
in relation to nano-particles in packaging and
Lack of awareness
The project team, led
by Martin Möller, a researcher with the Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) in Germany,
maintains that the technology has suffered from a lack of public
understanding and consumer concerns over the safety of some of its
They claim action is
thus needed from manufacturers and retailers to help ease the sense of
mistrust among the public: “Manufacturers, processors and dealers of foods
and food packaging with nanocomponents could, for
instance, follow industry-specific codes of conduct,” argue the
Moreover, the research
team calls for the evaluation of existing systems for traceability in food
production to check for their applicability to nanomaterials,
and they also claim that the effects of nanoparticles over the whole life cycle of a product,
from manufacture to disposal needs to be studied further.
tiny particles, measuring one billionth of a metre. A human hair is 80,000
nanometres (nm) wide, a red blood cell 7,000 nm wide, and a water molecule
0.3 nm wide.
Estimates of the
future market for nanotechnology range from €750bn to €2,000bn by 2015
according to the European Commission, with predictions for the number of new
jobs created by the industry standing at around 10 million.
In the packaging
industry, the use of nanoparticles is at a more
advanced stage than it is in food production.
In the form of
composite films, wafer-thin nano coatings of
aluminium, for example, or aluminium oxide protect snacks or chocolate bars
packed in them from oxygen, water vapour and flavour substances. Nanoparticles are also used in polyethylene terephthalate PET
bottles, to improve the blocking properties of bottles against oxygen in
The TA-Swiss report
also clarifies where the potential of nanotechnology lies in the packaging
industry, to what extent there is a possibility of food picking up nanoparticles from direct contact with packaging modified
by nanotechnology, and what dangers might arise for consumers as a result.
Migration into food
The researchers found
that the question over whether nanoparticles can
pass from packaging materials into food is primarily dependent on how the nanolayer was applied:
“In general terms, it
must be said that in the case of laminated films with a nano-layer
silicate plastic grid, it is least likely that nanoparticles
will be leached out of the packaging.
“But where the food is
in direct contact with the nano-layer, there is a
greater risk that it will pick up nanoparticles
The team added that a
study conducted by the Öko-Institut specifically
for the TA-Swiss nanotechnology report compared C02 emissions during the
product cycles of aluminium cans, disposable glass bottles and nano-technologically optimised disposable PET bottles,
with the result showing that the nano-PET bottles
have a more beneficial CO2 balance:
transport and recycling, nano-PET bottles generate
about one-third fewer greenhouse gases than aluminium containers and about 60
per cent fewer than disposable glass bottles,” according to the findings.