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Coalition of NGOs Releases Nanotech Recommendation Reflecting Concern about Use of Nanotech in Foods


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to rising concern about manufacturers using unregulated nanomaterials in food, a coalition of advocacy groups in the U.S. and abroad has released a policy recommendation for companies in food-related industries to assist them in avoiding or reducing the risks from nanomaterials in food products and packaging.

The recommendation requests that companies: adopt a detailed public policy explaining their use of nanomaterials, if any; publish a safety analysis for any nanomaterials being used; issue supplier standards; label all products that contain nanoparticles smaller than 500nm; and adopt a hierarchy of hazard controls approach to prevent exposure of its employees to nanomaterials.

Nanomaterials are engineered materials containing extremely small particles; a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide. Studies have indicated that a range of health harms may be caused by ingestion or inhalation of nanomaterials. The United States Food and Drug Administration, which has not yet issued nanomaterials regulations for food additives, states in its guidance that they “are not aware of any food ingredient... on the nanometer scale for which there are generally available data sufficient” to determine that the ingredient is Generally Recognized As Safe.

The Nanomaterials Policy recommendation is also accompanied by a fact sheet to help inform companies and consumers about the potential risks of nanomaterials. The Nanomaterials Policy recommendation was developed by As You Sow, Center for Food Safety, Center for International Environmental Law, Environmental Working Group, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The International Center for Technology Assessment, and The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF). The goal of the Policy is to provide a single recommendation for food manufacturers, endorsed by groups working on nanomaterials policy issues, to avoid confusion and multiple mandates.

“This policy reflects an emerging consensus that using nanomaterials in foods is a risky business,” said Danielle Fugere, President of As You Sow. “Using technology before it is proven safe exposes consumers to health harms and companies to the risks of litigation and consumer backlash.”

“Products containing engineered nanoparticles are being rapidly introduced into commercial production at every stage of the food chain, yet there are no specific safety regimes or adequate hazard assessments in place to protect workers, the public and the environment,” said Ron Oswald, IUF General Secretary.

“It’s time to shed light on this novel food technology. If we continue to allow a lack of regulation and transparency, we should be prepared to deal with the consequences of walking blindly with a risky technology,” said Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth Health and Environment Campaigner.