Nanotechnology-enabled packaging regulation roadmap offered:study

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food packaging Packaging European union Evaluation

A new study provides a roadmap for consumers, food manufacturers and government through potential US regulatory issues for nanotechnology-enabled food packaging, claims the report's author.

Michael Taylor, of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Service, said that his report, Assuring the Safety of Nanomaterials in Food Packaging: The Regulatory Process and Key Issues​ synthesizes eight months of meetings between government, industry and public interest agencies. Taylor told that the trigger for the study was the fact that the food packaging industry, food companies and consumers all share an interest in ensuring that any safety questions are identified, carefully evaluated and resolved before packaging using nanomaterials is brought onto the market. The report is a joint initiative between the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), a non-profit public interest scheme, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) the body representing US food, drink and consumer goods companies. Hypothetical applications​ Taylor said that the report examines the path of several hypothetical nanotechnology food packaging applications through the current US regulatory system, using product scenarios. He added that the study clarifies what the key questions should be when evaluating the toxicology of nanomaterials and their potential for migration into food. "We want to ensure that the correct safety evaluation tools exist for the analysis of nanotechnology-enabled food packaging and that the regulation system in relation to assessing this type of packaging is one, as consumers, we can rely on,"​ said Taylor. Novel properties​ Nanotechnology uses tiny particles, measuring one billionth of a metre, and has potential for many food applications as well as food packaging. A human hair is 80,000 nanometres (nm) wide, a red blood cell 7,000 nm wide, and a water molecule 0.3 nm wide. Fears have surrounded the nature of these particles and whether or not their size affects their toxicity. Further studies​ An EU-funded project, observatoryNano, was launched in April and it aims to examine data regarding scientific and technological trends and economic expectation, as well as to assess ethical and regulatory issues to provide an overview of all concerns surrounding nanotechnology. It will present science-based and economic analysis to help aid developments in nanotechnology and liaise with a variety of international organisations. The project said this will "ensure that effort is not duplicated and that resource sharing and output are maximised".​The project is funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).The total budget amounts to €4m for four years, and brings together 16 project partners from 10 countries. EFSA risk assessment​ Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) said that a draft of its risk assessment on nanotechnology in food applications is to be put to public consultation next month and it then intends to finalise the Opinion this autumn. The European Commission issued a mandate for a complete evaluation by 31 March but, because of the vast range of existing nanomaterials with differing properties and safety profiles, EFSA proposed to issue an initial scientific opinion by this summer. It set up a working group of member state scientific experts to build on existing opinions of scientific advisory bodies and third countries.

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