The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have released a report addressing the safety of nanomaterials in food packaging.
Concerns about the use of nanomaterials in food packaging materials generally stem from the uncertainty about whether nanomaterials will be released from packaging materials into the food or environment, as well as the uncertainty about health and environmental effects of the nanomaterials if they are released. Current regulations do not address the use of nanotechnology in food packaging materials, but the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have recently released a report entitled "Assuring the safety of nanomaterials in food packaging: The regulatory process and key issues" which describes their joint efforts to better understand the current regulatory process in relation to the use of nanotechnologies in food packaging. The report summarizes the efforts of numerous experts and stakeholders from industry, government and public interest groups following more than eight months of dialogue on the subject.
According to this report, the current regulatory process for food packaging primarily involves the FDA and in some cases the EPA, and does not address the use of nanotechnologies. Food packaging manufacturers are required to demonstrate safety and to obtain review by the appropriate federal agency. The report details the current regulatory process and presents a number of policy and scientific issues associated with applying the current process to nanotechnologies, including issues such as whether generally recognized as safe (GRAS) bulk materials will be considered safe at the nanoscale, and what the proper methodologies are for determining nanomaterial migration behavior. The report concludes with a discussion of industry stewardship and begins further conversation on how nanotechnologies can be safely and responsibly used in food packaging.
Ultimately, regulatory issues such as those detailed in this report, as well as how the issues are understood by various stakeholders, will impact if and to what extent nanomaterials will be incorporated into commercial food packaging applications. Over 60 representatives from a variety of organizations, companies and interest groups participated in the multi-month dialogue, including those from PEN, GMA, FDA, EPA, USDA, Dow, BASF, DuPont, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, Foodservice and Packaging Institute, and George Washington University.
More information can be found at the The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
Photographs courtesy of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.