Food Law News - UK - 2006

FSA Consultation Letter, 22 May 2006

NANOTECHNOLOGY - Draft report of FSA regulatory review of the use of nanotechnologies in relation to food

A copy of the draft report is available on this site. See Draft Nanotechnology Report

This draft report presents the findings of a review by the Food Standards Agency to identify potential gaps in regulation or risk assessment relating to the use of nanotechnologies and the potential deliberate or adventitious presence of manufactured nanomaterials in food. Responses are requested by: 14 July 2006

Consultation details

Nanotechnology is a broad term that encompasses the manufacture and use of materials and structures at the nanometre scale. (A nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre). This covers a very wide range of activities, so it is probably more correct to refer to nanotechnologies rather than one single nanotechnology. Nanomaterials have been defined by the Royal Society as having one dimension less than 100 nanometres, but this is not a rigid definition and may change as the science evolves.

In its widest sense, nanotechnology and nanomaterials are a natural part of food processing and conventional foods, as the characteristic properties of many foods rely upon nanometre sized components (e.g. nanoemulsions and foams). However, recent technological advances pave the way for manufactured nanoparticles to be added to food. These could be finely divided forms of existing ingredients, or completely novel chemical structures.

Engineering at the nanoscale also has the potential to create new opportunities for the packaging industries and various applications of the technology are being suggested. However, the Agency is not aware of any specific uses of nanotechnology/nanoparticles in foods currently marketed in the UK . Manufactured nanomaterials could also arise in foods as a result of environmental contamination.

In recognition of the potential importance of applications of nanotechnology, the Government commissioned an independent review by the Royal Society (RS) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE). The RS/RAE report was published in July 2004 and made a number of recommendations, as a result of which the Government is undertaking various actions. One of these is for relevant Government Departments, including the Food Standards Agency, to undertake regulatory reviews to assess whether existing regulations are appropriate to protect humans and the environment from hazards associated with the application of nanotechnologies.

The intention is that these reviews will be part of an overall review of the regulatory gaps, which is being co-ordinated by the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI, formerly the Office of Science and Technology).

The draft report of the Agency's regulatory review is being issued for public comment before the document is finalised and formally passed to OSI. In particular, the Agency would welcome views on

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