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December 30, 2011

NGO Publishes Framework for Food and Food Packaging Products Containing Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

As You Sow, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has published a framework providing guidelines intended for food and food packaging companies to assess exposure to and potential risks from food and food packaging products containing nanomaterials. According to As Your Sow, more than a dozen food companies, scientific organizations, and investor groups reviewed the framework, including:  Kraft, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Whole Foods, and Yum! Brands; the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Project on Emerging Nanotechnology, International Center for Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Technical University of Denmark; As You Sow, Calvert Investments, and the Investor Environmental Health Network.  The framework offers tiered recommendations of steps companies should take and information they should obtain from their suppliers regarding the safety testing of nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials.  As You Sow recommends that, until there are “firm regulatory requirements and/or a central repository for safety data on nanomaterials, information requested in this framework should be provided to food and food packaging companies by their suppliers.” 

The framework:

  • Provides an introduction to key terms and issues;
  • Describes the current state of regulations and risks; and
  • Makes recommendations regarding the information companies should obtain from suppliers who offer food products and packaging that contain nanomaterials by presenting best practices from existing scientific, industry, and governmental frameworks.

Of note to users, the framework defines nanomaterials as “materials ‘intentionally engineered’ to take advantage of unique properties at the nanoscale — from 1-1000 nm.” As You Sow states that it is developing a survey for food manufacturers, packagers, distributors, retailers, and fast-food chains regarding their use of, and policies related to, nanomaterials in food products.  As You Sow intends to release the results in mid-2012.