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January 14, 2010

House of Lords Committee Releases Report on Nanotechnologies and Food

Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 8, 2010, the United Kingdom (UK) House of Lords Science and Technology Committee announced the availability of its report entitled Nanotechnologies and Food, which criticizes the food industry for failing to be transparent about its research into the uses of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials. In its report, the Committee urges the Government and Research Councils to fund research into potential health and safety risks arising from the use of nanomaterials in the food sector. The Committee recommends that the Food Standards Agency maintain a publicly available register of food and food packaging containing nanomaterials, and suggests that the register be made available online. The Committee calls for nanomaterials to be defined clearly in food legislation to ensure that all uses of nanomaterials in food are subject to appropriate risk assessment procedures. According to the Committee, regulatory definitions should use a change in functionality, i.e. how a substance interacts with the body, as the criterion that distinguishes a nanomaterial from its larger form, to ensure that any nano-sized materials with novel properties are included. The Committee also recommends that the UK work with other European Union (EU) nations to clarify what is meant by the phrase “properties that are characteristic to the nanoscale” in the draft definition proposed for the revised Novel Foods Regulation, by the inclusion in legislation of a more detailed list of what these properties comprise. The Committee also raises concerns about the potential for the illegal importation of food products containing nanomaterials not approved for use in food in the EU.