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Surprising Science

Are Nanoparticles Safe For Human Consumption?

As the US government evaluates nanomaterials used in consumer products, a survey sent to over 2,500 food companies about their use returned only a fraction of responses.

What’s the Latest Development?

A corporate accountability nonprofit group, As You Sow, sent a survey to food companies asking about their use of nanotechnology in their products and packaging. Of the 2,500 companies polled, only 26 responded, and of those, As You Sow chief executive Andy Behar says, “[o]nly 14 said they don’t use nanomaterials, and of those only two had any policies on the use of nanomaterials.” He added that some companies may not even be aware of whether such materials existed in their products.

What’s the Big Idea?

Nanotechnology is opening up whole new realms of possibility in almost every science, including food science: Nanoparticles can improve foods’ flavor, texture, and even color. The European Union currently requires labeling of foods using these materials and has published assessment guidelines for the food industry, but here in the US, as noted by “an unusually emphatic” statement from the FDA last spring, their safety has yet to be fully vetted. Right now, says Behar, As You Sow isn’t anti-nano; they just want companies to “show [they’re] safe before you put these things into food or food packaging.”

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Read it at The New York Times


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