EFSA preparing opinion on nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is a field of applied sciences and technologies involving the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, normally under 100 nanometers. Nanoparticulated substances may exhibit different physical and chemical properties compared with the same substances at normal scale, such as increased chemical reactivity due to greater surface area.
Experts believe that nanotechnology products could have a substantial impact on the food and feed sector in the future, offering benefits for industry and the consumer. Nanotechnology can enable the management of food ingredients on a molecular level. Companies and institutes worldwide are currently researching and developing applications in fields such as the treatment of the mechanical and sensorial properties of food - for instance to achieve changed taste or texture - and modified nutritional value. Nanotechnology may also be used in food packaging, for instance to ensure better protection or to detect how fresh food is.
Risk assessment in the field of food and feed
Given the novelty of this technology, the safety of possible food and feed applications needs to be assessed and a need for risk assessment is expected in the context of:
1) The authorisation of regulated substances.
2) The presence of nanoparticles as contaminants in food and feed.
3) Replies to general requests such as whether the application of nanotechnologies in food production leads to changes in nutritional value or bioavailability.
Since 2006 EFSA has been following developments in nanotechnology within its remit. An internal working group on nanotechnology has reviewed the current state of knowledge and latest developments in nanotechnology with regard to food and feed.
On request from the European Commission, EFSA’s Scientific Committee is preparing an initial Opinion on the need for specific risk assessment approaches for nanotechnology applications in the field of food and feed. The Opinion has to identify the nature of possible hazards associated with current and foreseen applications of nanotechnology in this area. It should also give guidance on the data needed for the risk assessment of such technologies and applications.
EFSA has set up a working group on nanotechnology involving experts from national food safety authorities to help develop its Opinion. A draft is due to be put to public consultation in July 2008 and EFSA intends to finalise the Opinion in the autumn of 2008.
- Working Group on nanotechnology
- Nanotechnology mandate from the European Commission
- Webcast: Nanotechnology in food – EFSA Scientific Forum
- Presentations: Scientific Symposium on Food Safety, Nutrition and Nanotechnology
- European Commission: nanotechnology homepage
- European Commission DG SANCO: nanotechnologies
- European Commission: strategy for nanotechnology