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Over 40 New Products Added to Nanotechnology Database

March 06, 2018
Center for Food Safety

Over 40 New Products Added to Nanotechnology Database

New consumer products, from toothpaste to infant formula, found to contain nanomaterials added to interactive database

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Center for Food Safety has updated its groundbreaking Nanotechnology In Our Food Database, a searchable inventory of consumer food products that contain nanotechnology. Over 40 new products, including cookware, food storage containers, nutritional supplements and toothpaste, have been added to the list of nano-containing products. Nanotechnology is a powerful but novel platform for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level with important human and environmental health ramifications. While scientists agree that nanomaterials create novel risks that require new forms of toxicity evaluation, very little testing and regulation of these new products currently exists. This database seeks to improve transparency in our food system and alert consumers to the widespread use of this burgeoning technology.

"It is clear that both the EPA and the FDA are failing in their legal responsibilty of reviewing products that contain unapproved nano materials. These products should not be on the market," said George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety.

Because of their unique properties, nanomaterials pose new and yet unknown risks to human health and the environment. These microscopic materials that are increasingly being integrated into food such as baby formula and common candies, as well as food storage containers and cookware, have unprecedented mobility. This allows them to penetrate human skin and when ingested, reach sensitive places like bone marrow, lymph nodes, the heart, and the brain.

Despite these novel and dangerous properties, nanomaterials are subject to the regulatory system governing larger materials of the same substance. No additional regulations have been put in place to account for the differing behavior of nanomaterials. Despite the absence of a sufficient regulatory framework or proper method of evaluation, substances including nanosilver, nanozinc and nanosilica are increasingly being found in a wide variety of consumer goods.

The database covers over 40 different types of nanomaterials and is the only inventory to focus exclusively on food and food contact products. Of particular concern is the prominence of nano ingredients in so many foods frequently consumed by children.

"One of the most common nano ingredients in children's products is nano titanium dioxide, which is known to cause mutations in DNA and tumors in the offspring of animals that eats it. Major companies including Kraft-Heinz, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and Mars have begun to take all nano titanium dioxide from their food products, but the US government has yet to take action to stop products fed to children from containing this nano ingredient. It is disturbing to see a continued increase in foods containing nano on the US market," said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Food Safety.

While the full range of effects of nanomaterials on human health and the environment remains unknown, several recent studies have identified some of these risks including suppressed embryonic development in mice exposed to nano titanium dioxide1 and migration of nanoparticles and toxic impurities from tattoos to the lymph nodes.2 Yet, even in light of these findings, more and more nano products are finding their way on to shelves throughout the world. 

These additions to our nano food database make clear that the use of nanochemicals as novel food processing materials, food packaging and food ingredients continue to grow rapidly. Additional studies are needed to assess the potential benefits of nanotechnologies and engineered nanomaterials to determine which are safe enough to be used in foods without adverse health effects. Nanoemulsions may allow advantages over conventional emulsions and nano encapsulation may allow improved availability of vitamins and minerals in food products, but the dietary supplement industry has not provided adequate studies of the safety of these nano products.

New kinds of nanotechnologies for food that may come to market include nanocomposites, nanosensors to detect food pathogens, nano silver in plastic packaging, and many kinds of nano-pesticides and nano fertilizers in agriculture. All of these products need adequate review by the EPA, the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As of today, The EPA and the CPSC have ordered only about a dozen products off the market. This database shows that they are not doing their job to protect people who consume the food they oversee and further regulatory action is needed.


Additional Resources:

European Food Safety Agency, March 2018, DRAFT Guidance on risk assessment of the application of nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the food and feed 4 chain: Part 1, human and animal health

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Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than 800,000 consumer and farmer advocates across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood, @CFS_Press





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