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December 1, 2014

EP ENVI Committee Proposes Moratorium on the Use of Nanomaterials in Food

Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 24, 2014, the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) considered draft legislation concerning novel foods.  The Committee amended the draft legislation, proposing a moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in food based on the precautionary principle.  The Committee approved the amended draft legislation by a vote of 57-4, with two abstentions.  EP Member James Nicholson (ECR, UK), who is steering the legislation through the EP, stated that he was not completely satisfied with the vote.  According to Nicholson, it is “essential that cloning and nanomaterials be dealt with separately.”  The Committee’s press release states that foods for which production processes require risk assessments, including nanomaterials, should not be authorized until they are approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  The press release notes that “[s]pecial attention should also be paid to food packaging containing nanomaterials, to prevent them migrating into food.”  In addition, in line with the precautionary principle, all novel food should also be subject to post-market monitoring.  The Committee amended the existing definition of nanomaterials to bring it in line with EFSA recommendations, and dropped the threshold for a food ingredient to qualify as “nano” from the European Commission’s proposed 50 percent to ten percent.  The Committee unanimously approved a mandate for Nicholson to begin negotiations with the Council of Ministers, with one abstention.  The Council has yet to adopt its negotiating position.