This week I want to put two of my little pets together. Nanotechnology and food might sound like two very different topics, like a cat and a gerbil to use the pet metaphor, but you would be surprised. Many products in fact have manufactured nanoparticles in them, and we eat them.
Now we might ask if this is safe, and some would say of course it is. Some have great reservations about it, and some point to the fact that there has been little research done into the matter and that it might be better not to eat them anyway.
Friends of the Earth US have recently published a report entitled Tiny Ingredients, Big Risks, and it is free to download here.
To give you a flavour of what is on offer, I just take a few lines from the report:
A ten fold increase in unregulated and unlabeled nanofoods over the last 6 years
Nanomaterials are found in a broad aray of everyday food (cheese, chocolate, breakfast cereals etc)
Major food companies are investing billions in nanofood and packaging
An increasingly large body of peer reviewed evidence indicates that nanomaterials may harm human health and the environment
Nano agrochemicals are now being used on farms so entering the environment
US regulation is wholly inadequate
Public involvement in decision-making regarding these problems is necessary
The products containing unlabeled nano-ingredients range from Kraft American Singles to Hershey’s chocolate. They are made by major companies including Kraft (KRFT), General Mills (GIS), Hershey (HSY), Nestle (NSRGY), Mars, Unilever (UL), Smucker’s (SJM) and Albertsons. But due to a lack of labeling and disclosure, a far greater number of food products with undisclosed nanomaterials are likely currently on the market.
To give you an idea we are talking about silver, titanium dioxide, zink and zink oxide, silicon and copper, as well as the traditional carbon nano tubes that are found in food packaging and freshness labelling technologies.
The report documents 85 food and beverage products on the market known to contain nanomaterials — including brand name products, and points out that the nanofood industry will soon be worth $20 billion.
This is a detailed report, it lists the products that have been found to contain these materials, the health problems associated with ingestion of such materials in animals and calls for action. It does not make for light reading, but it appears to me to be a technology that is being sneaked in through the back door, and soon like genetic modification will be difficult to avoid.
Take a look back at my food series for more tasty stuff.