Download PDF
June 20, 2016

FSANZ Publishes Reports on the Use of Nanotechnology in Food Additives and Packaging

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

In June 2016, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced the availability of two reports on the potential use of nanotechnologies in existing food additives and food packaging.  FSANZ retained an expert toxicologist to review publicly available scientific literature on whether there is reasonable evidence of health risks associated with oral ingestion of titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, and silver in food.  These food additives may contain a proportion of material with at least one dimension in the nanoscale range.  As an extension of this work, the consultant also investigated evidence of risks to health from nanomaterials used in food packaging.  FSANZ states that the key findings include:

  • The consultant reviewed the evidence on nanoscale silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, and silver in food and found the weight of evidence does not support claims of significant health risks for food grade materials;
  • Titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide are used internationally in a range of food products and have been used safely for decades. They are approved food additives in Australia and New Zealand.  Silver is also an approved additive in Australia and New Zealand but is permitted in very few foods;
  • Overall, the findings of the report are consistent with recently published information in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials Sponsorship Program for the Testing of Manufactured Nanomaterials toxicological dossiers on silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, and silver;
  • There is no direct evidence to suggest novel nanomaterials are currently being used in food packaging applications in Australia or New Zealand, with most patents found from the U.S.;
  • From the case studies on the use of nano-clay and nanosilver in packaging, the report concludes that there is no evidence from the literature of migration of nano-clay from packaging into food. The nanoscale nature of nanosilver (whether used in packaging or food) is also not likely to be dangerous to consumers’ health; and
  • An independent peer review agreed with the overall analysis and conclusions of both reports stating that they were appropriately balanced in their reporting and that none of the nanotechnologies described are of health concern.