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InterNano Editorial Commentary: Nanomaterials in Food and Food Packaging

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, PhD

Direct consumer exposure to nanomaterials is brought front and center to the public through discussions of the presence of nanomaterials in food and food packaging products. InterNano Contributing Editor Stacey Frederick identified a recently published report on these areas of nanomaterial applications. The report provides unique perspectives of the topic, along with important information resources.

TEM image of silica nanoparticles
A recent report issued by As You Sow (AYS) provides a brief overview of the benefits, concerns, and regulations regarding nanomaterials in food and food packaging products. The article provides some interesting insight regarding the issue of nanomaterials in food products, emphasizing the challenges associated with adequately regulating and informing the public about the presence of nanomaterials. AYS contracted an analytical lab to test for the presence of nano-sized Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles in powdered sugar donuts and other food products. While results indicated that some food products contained nanoparticles, it is not known if these were specifically engineered at the nanoscale or if they resulted as a byproduct of the manufacturing process. The take-away message from this report is the need for coordination of science-based information and knowledge. Many materials with larger dimensions in the micron scale are completely safe, and a better understanding is needed on exposure risks when shrinking particle size to the nanoscale before appropriate controls can be enacted. In addition, there is a need for the food industry to better understand supply chain and process conditions that may result in nanomaterials being present in food products.

The report does cite that many companies are being proactive to ensure that nanomaterials are not present in their products. Companies are also placing renewed emphasis on food safety, food packaging safety, and public transparency. This is necessary as many nanotechnologies now have the ability to reshape food packing by incorporating a range of functionalities that will increase food shelf life and safety. The full report can be found: Behar A, Fugere D, Passoff M. 2013. Slipping through the cracks: An issue brief on nanomaterials in food. Oakland, CA: As You Sow. Available from: