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Food and Nanotechnology

The subject of nanotechnology and our food supply offers an alarming view of the potential for human health issues. Amazingly, the U.S. government currently does not regulate the use of nanotechnology in food products, despite its widespread use and serious public health concerns. Europe and the Canadian government have taken the first steps to limit the use of nanotechnology in food, but the U.S. has so far only issued draft guidelines to companies.

The chemical industry has already incorporated nanomaterials into foods like dietary supplements and “food contact substances,” including cutting boards, plastic containers and sandwich bags used to store leftovers or pack lunches. Industry claims their products will make food safer, and have pushed out a wide variety of nanoscale applications in food packaging and processing that is already on the market with many others in development. We know very little about the health effects of consuming engineered nanomaterials, but what we do know is that is presents cause for alarm. Scientific research indicates that engineered nanomaterials may pose significant health risks if inhaled, ingested or spread on the skin. A 2012 National Research Council study notes that “there is little progress” on research about the human health effects of oral consumption of nanomaterials.