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Nanotechnology and food


									Nanotechnology and food
•	 What	is	nanotechnology?
•	 Nanotechnology	applications	in	agriculture	and	food
•	 Food	safety	considerations
•	 Public	awareness

This	briefing	paper	discusses	the	state	              What is nanotechnology?
of	the	art	of	nanotechnology	R&D	and	                 Nanotechnology	is	a	general	technology,	like	
products	in	food	and	nutrition.	After	a	short	        biotechnology	and	information	technology,	
explanation	of	what	nanotechnology	is,	               integrated	in	a	larger	technological	system	
present	and	expected	future	applications	of	          or	product.	Nanotechnology	is	already	used	
nanotechnology	in	agriculture	and	food	are	           in	some	existing	products	such	as	anti-
discussed.	The	paper	then	follows	the	debate	         reflective	coatings	on	car	windows	and	
on	food	safety	considerations	which	has	              tennis	rackets	strengthened	with	carbon	
emerged	and	discusses	public	awareness	of	            nanotubes.	Most	of	nanotechnology	is	still	
nanotechnology	in	general	and	of	applications	        only	a	promise	for	enabling	new	products:	
of	nanotechnology	in	food.                            five,	ten,	twenty	or	more	years	into	the	
                                                      future.	Nanoscience	and	nanotechnology	             NanoBio-RAISE	Co-ordination	office:
The	aim	of	this	briefing	paper	is	to	deliver	         are	intrinsically	interdisciplinary.	Physicists,	   Julianalaan	67
concise,	correct	and	balanced	information	to	         chemists,	biologists,	materials	scientists,	        2628	BC	Delft
advance	public	debate	among	consumers,	               engineers	and	other	scientists	join	forces	in	      The	Netherlands
media,	policy	makers,	producers	and	                  interdisciplinary	teams	studying	how	nature	        t	+31	(0)15	278	66	26
researchers	as	part	of	the	European	                  behaves	at	the	scale	of	individual	atoms	and	       f	+31	(0)15	278	23	55
Commission-funded	Nanobio-RAISE	project.1		           molecules	and	working	to	integrate	particles	
It	results	from	the	combined	contributions	of	        of	tens	of	nanometres	diameter	into	potential
natural	and	social	scientists,	industrialists,	and	   products.	Others	are	miniaturising	micro-
governmental	and	public	interest	organisations	       electronic	chip	design	down	to	scales	where	
across	Europe.	It	is	intended	to	provide	             quantum	mechanics	determines	electronic	
information	and	does	not	represent	the	views	         behaviour	allowing,	for	example,	single	electron	
or	policy	of	the	European	Commission	or	any	          switching.	In	2005	worldwide	total	public	and	
other	body.                                           private	investment	was	approximately	€9.7	
                                                      billion,	including	almost	half	from	private	
Introduction                                          sources.3			
Nanotechnology	encompasses	materials	and	
devices	with	functional	structures	between	1	         Materials	and	devices	with	nanostructures	
and	about	100	nanometres.	A	nanometre	is	a	           have	different	properties	from	the	same	
thousandth	of	a	thousandth	of	a	thousandth	           materials	and	devices	with	larger	scale.	Some	
of	a	metre	(10-9m)	–	about	the	length	your	           of	these	properties	enable	new	products,	for	
fingernail	has	grown	while	reading	this	              example	nanostructured	plastic	conducts	
sentence	or	60,000	times	smaller	than	a	              electrons	rather	than	being	insulating.	This	
human	hair	in	diameter.	Scientists	have	been	         is	expected	to	enable	cheaper	microchips.	
developing	nanotechnology	in	laboratories	            But	free	nanoparticles	of	otherwise	non-
since	about	the	1980s.	Now,	according	to	             toxic	materials	might	inadvertently	be	toxic	
claims	by	the	manufacturers,	several	hundreds	        to	humans	or	to	the	environment.	As	long	as	
of	products	incorporating	nanotechnology	are	         the	particles	are	included	in	a	bulk	material	
already	on	the	market	worldwide	including	            no	new	risks	are	expected.	Possible	migration	
many	in	food	and	beverages.	In	the	absence	           of	the	nanoparticles	from	such	bulk	materials	
of	international	agreement	on	a	standardised	         into	the	food	or	the	environment	is	the	issue.	
terminology	for	nanotechnology,	it	is	not	clear	      Food	safety	experts	are	looking	into	whether	
whether	these	products	are	truly	made	with	           the	legislative	controls	on	food	packaging	
it.2	This	briefing	paper	is	intended	to	provide	      materials	already	in	place	for	plastics	etc	are	
balanced	information	and	advance	public	              adequate	to	deal	with	the	new	properties	
debate	on	the	potential	benefits,	risks,	ethical,	    of	nanoparticles	of	the	same	food	grade	
legal	and	social	implications	of	nanotechnology	      materials.	Scientific	toxicology	research	to	
applied	in	agriculture	and	food.	                     assess	the	potential	risks	of	engineered	
                                                                                                      are	for	the	mid-	to	longterm	future	and	
                                                                                                      without	common	definitions	to	distinguish	
                                                                                                      nanotechnology	for	food	applications	
                                                                                                      from	other	food.	Still,	governments	and	
                                                                                                      food	companies	in	many	countries	are	
                                                                                                      investing	substantially	in	nanotechnology	
                                                                                                      development	for	food	applications.	In	the	
                                                                                                      USA,	the	Woodrow	Wilson	Institute	has	
                                                                                                      identified	160	projects	in	nanotechnology	
                                                                                                      for	agrifood	applications,	totalling	and	
                                                                                                      investment	of	about	$15	million.7	The	
                                                                                                      Danish	technology	foundation	has	invested	
                                                                                                      €2	million	in	research	on	nanotechnology	for	
                                                                                                      food	applications	in	the	Danish	“Nanofood”	
                                                                                                      consortium	since	2006.	In	The	Netherlands,	
                                                                                                      the	government	is	investing	50%	of	a	€12	
                                                                                                      million	research	project	on	nanotechnology	
                                                                                                      for	food	and	health,	and	a	larger	research	
                                                                                                      programme	on	nanotechnology	for	food	
                                                                                                      applications	has	been	proposed.8	In	
                                                                                                      2005,	Iran	started	a	research	programme	
                                                                                                      on	nanotechnology	in	agrifood	including	
nanomaterials	is	only	just	starting	and	it	         not	identify	and	agree	on	what	is	really	         35	laboratories.9	Food	applications	of	
will	take	some	years	before	systematic	data	        new	about	these	foods	and	whether	or	not	         nanotechnology	are	also	a	priority	in	the	
is	available.	Policy	makers	are	assessing	          the	current	regulations	and	test	methods	         UK	and	India.10	Major	food	and	nutrition	
whether	existing	legislation	regulating	market	     are	adequate	to	ensure	food	safety.	It	is	        companies	including	H.J.	Heinz,	Nestlé,	
access	of	products,	which	is	not	designed	          not	clear	whether	organic	materials	such	         Hershey,	Unilever,	Campina,	Friesland	Food,	
to	deal	with	nanotechnology	specifically,	          as	proteins	and	fat	and	sugar	molecules	          Grolsch,	Kraft	Foods,	Cargill,	Pepsi-Cola	
will	require	modification	in	the	light	of	          which	are	in	the	nanometre	length	scale	by	       company,	ConAgra	Foods,	General	Mills,	
the	emerging	evidence	on	toxicological	             nature	should	be	considered	nanomaterials	        Danisco,	Arla	foods	are	engaged	in	research	
effects	of	synthetic	nanomaterials.	There	          and	hence	tested	as	a	new	food	ingredient	        on	nanotechnology	for	food	applications.	
is	currently	no	consensus	if	any	changes	           when	adapted	by	food	scientists	to	have	          Materials	manufacturers	such	as	BASF	and	
will	be	necessary,	and	whether	the	                 new	functionality.	It	is	also	not	clear	if	the	   DSM	are	also	interested	in	selling	their	
existing	regulations	themselves	should	be	          boundary	of	100	nanometre	is	a	sensible	          nanomaterials	to	food	producers.6
changed	or	merely	the	guidelines	for	their	         upper	limit	for	applications	of	nanoscience	
implementation	specifying	criteria	for	safety	      and	technology	to	food	systems.	Scientists	       Nanotechnology applications
testing.	The	current	legislation	already	           still	need	to	determine	the	size	below	           in agriculture and food
requires	strict	testing,	especially	for	products	   which	any	particular	material	changes	its	        Nanotechnology	can	be	applied	in	all	
to	which	consumers	will	be	exposed	directly	        properties.	While	some	materials	may	have	        phases	of	the	food	cycle	“from	farm	
such	as	pharmaceutical	or	food	products.	           the	same	properties	at	any	particle	size,	it	     to	fork”	which	are	reviewed	below.	The	
One	major	need	is	commonly	accepted	                is	known,	for	example,	that	although	gold	is	     following	examples	of	potential	future	
definitions	for	nanotechnology	and	other	           generally	non-toxic,	scientists	have	observed	    applications	of	nanotechnology	in	
relevant	terms,	such	as	nanoparticle	and	           that	gold	nanoparticles	show	toxic	effects4			    agriculture	and	food	are	mainly	based	
nanobiotechnology.	National	representatives,	       For	other	materials,	tests	still	need	to	be	      on	the	Dutch	MinacNed	roadmap	on	
experts	and	industry	and	consumer	and	              done.	In	this	briefing	paper,	the	focus	is	on	    Microsystems	and	Nanotechnology	in	
environmental	organisation	representatives	         applications	of	nanotechnology	in	food.	          Food	9	&	11	and	Woodrow	Wilson	Project	on	
are	trying	to	reach	a	common	understanding	                                                           Emerging	Nanotechnologies2	reports	on	
on	useful	terminology	in	the	Organisation	          Market trends in nanotech-                        nanotechnology	on	agriculture	and	food.	
for	Economic	Cooperation	and	Development	           nology for food applications                      Some	of	these	applications	will	result	in	the	
(OECD)	and	standardisation	bodies	including	        Some	food	and	beverage	products	are	              presence	of	nanoparticles	or	nanostructured	
the	worldwide	International	Standards	              already	produced	with	nanotechnology	             materials	in	the	food.	Other	applications	
Organisation	(ISO)	and	European	Committee	          or	include	manufactured	nanomaterials.	           only	use	nanoelectronics	or	other	
for	Standardization	(CEN).	                         Current	market	estimates	for	                     nanotechnologies	in	food	production	where	
                                                    nanotechnology	for	food	applications	are	         there	is	no	direct	interaction	between	the	
There	are	no	common	definitions	about	              between	$410	million5	and	$2.6	billion	in	        nanotechnology	and	the	food	system.
foods	that	may	contain	nanoparticles	               20036.	Future	expectations	vary	between	
or	ingredients	in	nano-particulate	form.	           a	market	share	of	food	products	based	on	         Agriculture/food production
This	is	problematic	because	without	                nanotechnology	of	$5.8	billion	by	20123	          Nanotechnology	may	be	used	in	agriculture	
common	definitions,	regulators,	producers,	         and	of	$20	billion	by	2010.4	However,	            and	food	production	in	the	form	of	
consumers	and	other	stakeholders	can	               it	is	unclear	how	valid	such	estimates	           nanosensors	for	monitoring	crop	growth	and	
pest	control	by	early	identification	of	animal	   factory	but	also	on	the	shelf	and	even	in	        contain	clay	nanoparticles	to	keep	oxygen	or	
or	plant	diseases.		These	nanosensors	can	        your	refrigerator.	These	sensors	can	be	          water	vapour	in	or	out.	
help	enhance	production	and	improve	food	         integrated	in	the	food	processing	equipment	
safety.	The	sensors	function	as	external	         or	in	refrigerators	and	do	not	introduce	         Antimicrobial	agents	are	also	being	used	to	
monitoring	devices	and	do	not	end	up	in	the	      nanoparticles	into	the	food	itself.               preserve	food.	Some	of	these	are	made	with	
food	itself.	                                                                                       nanotechnology.	The	SAMSUNG	refrigerator	
                                                  A	nanosensor	is	a	device	consisting	of	           and	food	container	Fresher	Longer	are	
Nanomaterials	can	also	be	introduced	in	          an	electronic	data	processing	part	and	a	         coated	with	antimicrobial	nanosilver	
or	on	the	food	itself.	The	effectiveness	of	      sensing	layer	or	part,	which	can	translate	a	     particles.	In	the	future	active	nano-coatings	
pesticides	may	be	improved	if	very	small	         signal	such	as	light,	or	the	presence	of	an	      may	also	be	applied	on	food	packaging,	for	
amounts	are	enclosed	in	hollow	capsules	          organic	substance	or	gas	into	an	electronic	      example,	the	Dutch	Organisation	for	Applied	
with	a	diameter	in	the	nanometre	range	           signal.	The	electrodes	or	the	active	layer	       Science	(TNO)	has	developed	a	coating	of	
which	can	be	designed	to	open	only	when	          can	be	structured	at	the	nanometre	scale.	        starch	colloids	filled	with	an	antimicrobial	
triggered	by	the	presence	of	the	pest	to	be	      The	whole	device	is	usually	at	the	scale	of	      substance	such	that	if	micro-organisms	grow	
controlled.	Nanopesticide	residues	on	the	        centimetres.	A	typical	nanosensor	would	          on	the	packaged	food	they	will	penetrate	
food	and	from	animal	feed	and	veterinary	         be	the	“electronic	nose”.	Many	sensors	           the	starch	releasing	the	antimicrobial	
medicine,	may	end	up	inside	the	stomach	          used	for	olfactory	applications	are	based	        substance.14	Nanoparticles	which	are	
but	what	happens	then	is	not	clear.9	             on	MOSFET	(Metal	Oxide	Semiconductor	             included	in	food	packaging	or	storage	are	
                                                  Field	Effect	Transistor)	technology,	which	       not	intentionally	included	in	the	food,	but	
Food processing                                   is	commonly	used	in	electronic	circuits.	         there	is	a	chance	these	particles	may	
New	types	of	membranes	including	micro	           Cantilever	sensors	are	particularly	              migrate	into	the	food.
and	nano-sieves	can	be	applied	in	food	           interesting	because	they	work	in	liquids.	
processing.	The	pores	of	the	sieves	are	in	       Such	a	cantilever	sensor	is	equipped	with	        Food additives
the	micrometer	and	nanometer	range.	They	         tiny	cantilevers	with	a	biochemical	layer	        Currently,	some	food	additives	with	nano-
can	be	used	for	filtration	of	beer	or	of	milk	    which	can	detect	the	presence	of	a	pest	          ingredients	(according	to	claims	by	the	
for	cheese	production12.	In	future,	they	may	     or	disease.	If	the	pest	is	present	in	a	food	     producers)	are	being	sold	in	the	USA	and	
also	be	used	for	preparing	water-filled	fat	      product,	molecules	typical	for	that	pest	         Germany.	These	additives	may	imply	that	
colloids	to	produce	low	fat	milk	with	the	        attach	to	the	detection	layer.	The	cantilever	    nanoparticles	are	present	in	the	food.	The	
same	taste	as	full	fat	milk	which	could	then	     bends	under	the	additional	weight,	leading	       additives	are	mainly	aimed	at	the	diet,	
be	used	in	creamy	low	fat	ice	cream.	They	        to	an	electronic	signal	warning	for	the	          sports	and	health	food	markets	and	contain	
can	also	be	used	for	encapsulating	valuable	      presence	of	the	pest.	                            minerals	with	a	nano-formulation,	such	as	
food	ingredients	such	as	minerals	in	a	                                                             silicon	dioxide,	magnesium,	calcium,	etc.	
coating	of	another	ingredient	to	boost	take	      Nanosensors	can	be	connected	to	an	               The	particle	size	of	these	minerals	is	claimed	
up	by	the	body	or	to	avoid	these	ingredients	     electronic	or	wireless	network.	They	can,	for	    to	be	smaller	than	100	nanometre	so	they	
being	lost	during	cooking.                        example,	be	used	for	pest	control	of	crops	       can	pass	through	the	stomach	wall	and	
                                                  growing	in	the	field	or	for	quality	control	of	   into	body	cells	more	quickly	than	ordinary	
Quality control and testing                       milk	during	industrial	processing.	Other	types	   minerals	with	larger	particle	size.	
Food	safety	is	a	major	concern	for	food	          of	nanosensors	can	also	be	integrated	in	
producers,	consumers	and	food	safety	             food	packaging	to	show	whether	the	product	       Nano-additives	can	also	be	incorporated	in	
authorities.	Nanosensors	may	help	to	             is	still	fit	for	human	consumption.	The	          micelles	or	capsules	of	protein	or	another	
improve	food	safety	by	enabling	faster	           nanosensors	may	for	example	change	colour	        natural	food	ingredient.	Micelles	are	tiny	
quality	control	and	testing	not	only	in	the	      if	the	food	is	no	longer	fresh.	Micro	and	        spheres	of	oil	or	fat	coated	with	a	thin	
                                                  nanosensors	have	been	developed	for	food	         layer	of	bipolar	molecules	of	which	one	
                                                  safety	and	quality	control	in	the	European	       end	is	soluble	in	fat	and	the	other	in	water.	
                                                  project	GOODFOOD	(2004-2007).13	                  The	micelles	are	suspended	in	water,	or	
                                                                                                    conversely,	water	is	encapsulated	in	micelles	
                                                  Food packaging and storage                        and	suspended	in	oil.	Such	nanocapsules	
                                                  Success	of	packaging	materials	for	fresh	         can	for	example	contain	healthy	Omega3	
                                                  products	totally	depends	on	the	control	of	       fish	oil	which	has	a	strong	and	unpleasant	
                                                  internal	gas	composition	(O2,	CO5	pt)	and	        taste	and	only	release	it	in	the	stomach	
                                                  water	loss	in	packaging.	Nanopackaging	can	       such	as	in	“Tip	Top	Up”®	bread	sold	in	
                                                  create	a	modified	atmosphere	in	packaging	        Australia.
                                                  with	controlled	gaseous	exchange,	so	that,	
                                                  for	example,	the	shelf	life	of	vegetables	may	    Novel foods
                                                  be	increased	to	weeks.	The	surface	of	an	         Food	and	nutrition	companies	foresee	a	
                                                  ordinary	packaging	material	such	as	plastic	      great	deal	of	promise	from	nanotechnology	
                                                  or	paper	can	be	adapted	to	make	it	suitable	      in	novel	food	products.	In	novel	food,	the	
                                                  for	food	by	coating	it	with	one	or	more	          ingredients	which	naturally	occur	in	food	
                                                  sharply	defined	layers	of	tens	of	nanometres	     are	adapted	for	better	taste,	digestion	or	
                                                  thickness.	The	plastic	of	drink	bottles	can	      to	address	the	specific	nutrition	needs	of	
special	groups	such	as	babies,	elderly	or	
patients.	Low	fat	milk,	cheese	and	ice	cream	
with	the	same	taste	as	full	fat	products	
have	already	been	mentioned.	A	Hungarian	
company	has	developed	an	ice	gel	for	soft	
drinks	or	ice-cream.	The	jelly-like	ice	gel	
consists	of	very	small	ice	crystals	containing	
even	tinier	bubbles	of	carbon	dioxide	(CO2).	
The	CO2	bubbles	are	1-10	nanometres	in	
diameter,	much	smaller	than	CO2	bubbles	in	
soft	drinks.	In	the	mouth,	the	ice	gel	causes	
a	feeling	similar	to	effervescent	tablets.15		

Since	March	2007	a	Dutch	research	centre	
in	Atomic	and	Molecular	Physics	(AMOLF)	
and	Unilever	have	been	investigating	human	
digestion	processes	at	the	atomic	scale	
hoping	to	develop	better	novel	foods	such	
as	healthy	cholesterol	replacements.16	The	
trend	is	towards	“personalised	food”.

Not	only	the	food	itself	may	be	adapted,	
external	diagnostic	devices	incorporating	
nanosensors	may	also	be	used	to	achieve	
a	diet	which	is	better	targeted	to	the	needs	
of	the	body	of	an	individual	consumer.	A	
future	consumer	may	be	able	to	use	a	
fast	handheld	diagnostic	device	to	test	
their	body’s	actual	need	for	specific	food	
ingredients	such	as	minerals	and	adapt	their	      from	the	food	are	also	expected	to	lead	           test	equipment	for	controlling	the	safety	of	
diet	accordingly	and,	similarly,	a	diabetic	       to	improved	food	safety.	Food	and	drinks	          nanofood	products.	This	means	that	even	
patient	could	use	a	glucose	sensor	to	             quality	may	also	be	preserved	for	longer	          if	a	producer	has	tested	the	food	for	safety	
establish	their	need	for	insulin.17		              by	incorporating	nanoclay	or	antimicrobial	        with	conventional	methods,	there	may	still	
                                                   nanoparticles	in	food	packaging.6,	9	&	10	But	     be	unforeseen	health	and	environmental	
Relevant nanomaterials                             at	present,	it	is	not	clear	if	nanoparticles	      risks.	On	the	other	hand,	nature	is	full	
Several	types	of	nanomaterials	are	                in	food	are	safe	for	consumers	and	the	            of	organic	nanoparticles.	Proteins,	sugar	
considered	relevant	for	applications	in	           environment.	Nanoparticles	can	be	included	        molecules,	fat	molecules	all	have	nanometre	
food.	They	can	be	subdivided	into	organic	         intentionally	in	food	as	additives	and	in	novel	   sizes,	and	are	safe	for	consumption.	
materials	which	are	by	nature	of	nanometre	        foods.	Nanoparticles	can	also	end	up	in	food	
length	scales	and	inorganic	nanomaterials.	        as	residues	of	nano-pesticides,	migrating	         Trends in regulation
Organic	nanomaterials	include	proteins,	           from	the	packaging	or	from	air,	soil	or	water	     The	debate	on	regulating	nanotechnology	
fat	and	sugar	molecules.	Nutraceuticals	           pollution.	Food	safety	experts	and	regulators	     for	food	applications	started	in	2006	in	the	
consisting	of	food	additives	derived	from	         have	started	to	discuss	whether	the	present	       USA	and	Europe.	The	UK	Institute	of	Food	
plants	are	also	organic	nanomaterials	             food	safety	legislation	is	adequate	to	ensure	     Science	and	Technology20	has	analysed	
used	in	food.	Inorganic	nanomaterials	for	         that	novel	nano-food	products	brought	to	          existing	European	food	safety	legislation	
applications	in	food,	food	additives,	food	        the	market	are	tested	for	safety.18	There	is	      and	concluded	that	the	present	food	
packaging	or	storage	include	nano-clay	            some	discussion	whether	nano-formulations	         legislation	is	in	principle	sufficient	to	cover	
platelets	for	food	packaging;	minerals	such	       of	food	additives	or	food	grade	packaging	         potential	risks	of	nanofood	although	there	
as	silicon	dioxide,	calcium	and	magnesium;	        materials	must	be	tested	again	if	larger	          were	some	doubts	as	to	whether	nano-
and	silver	nanoparticles	for	water	purification	   particles	of	the	same	materials	are	already	       additives	of	the	same	chemical	composition	
or	antimicrobial	packaging	or	food	storage.16      allowed	on	the	market.19	For	new	nano-scale	       of	already	approved	food	grade	additives	
                                                   ingredients	to	be	used	in	foods,	the	current	      such	as	titanium	dioxide	for	icing	on	cakes	
Food safety considerations                         EU	Novel	Food	Regulation	arguably	imposes	         (a	permitted	white	colouring),	would	have	
As	already	explained,	scientists	expect	that	      the	need	to	test	them	for	safety	before	they	      to	be	retested.	Other	concerns	are	mainly	
food	safety	can	be	improved	by	applications	       are	allowed	on	the	market.	In	any	case,	the	       about	implementation	of	the	guidelines	
of	nanotechnology.	Different	types	of	             producer	has	a	legal	responsibility	only	to	       and	of	test	protocols	and	instruments,	as	
nanosensors	may	in	the	future	be	used	to	          introduce	safe	products	onto	the	market.	          discussed	above.	The	European	Agency	
monitor	food	quality	throughout	the	food	          Risk	assessment	specialists	in	the	agrofood	       for	the	Evaluation	of	Medicinal	products	
chain.	Food	processing	technologies	such	          sector	are	concerned	about	the	lack	of	            (EMEA)	published	a	position	paper	on	
as	nano-sieves	for	separating	microbes	            standard	test	procedures	and	handheld	             nanopharmaceuticals	that	reaches	a	similar	
conclusion.21	The	European	Commission	
carried	out	a	review	of	nanotechnology	                               Optimism and pessimism in 2005
regulations	adopted	in	June	2008	which	
                                                    Computers	&	IT                                                          Will	improve
concluded	that	“Current legislation covers
in principle the potential health, safety
                                                       Solar	energy                                                         No	effect
and environmental risks in relation to
nanomaterials. The protection of health,
                                                       Wind	energy                                                          Will	deteriorate
safety and the environment needs mostly to
be enhanced by improving implementation
                                                     Mobile	phones                                                          Don't	know
of current legislation.”22	It	is	emphasised	
that	there	is	a	clear	difference	between	a	
statement	that	uncertainties	in	knowledge	
mean	it	may	be	difficult	to	implement	
                                                 Space	exploration
existing	regulation	and	a	statement	that	
more	regulation	is	needed.23	

In	the	USA,	the	Food	and	Drug	
                                                     Nuclear	energy
Administration	(FDA)	organised	a	public	
hearing	in	October	2006	about	environment,	
health	and	safety	of	nanomaterials,	            Figure 1: Eurobarometer 64.3: Europeans and Biotechnology in 2005

including	food	applications,	and	is	in	the	
process	of	developing	its	policy	plans.	In	     is	a	need	to	distinguish	between	“naturally	      177	consumers,	6%	mentioned	this	while	
Europe,	policy	makers	responsible	for	food	     occurring”	molecules	already	present	in	food	     on	the	other	hand,	7%	were	concerned	
safety	or	nanotechnology	in	several	EU	         and	artificially	introduced	manufactured	         about	potential	risks	of	nanomaterials	in	
Member	States	including	UK,	Germany,	           nanoparticles	that	are	not.	There	is	a	clear	     the	food	chain.28	There	is	a	similar	low	
The	Netherlands	and	Switzerland	put	the	        mistrust	of	(food)	producers	who	may	             level	of	knowledge	about	nanotechnology	
issues	of	nanotechnology	and	food	safety	       incorporate	nanotechnology	in	products	           generally	in	the	USA	where	more	than	70%	
on	the	agenda.7	The	European	Food	Safety	       without	indicating	it	on	the	label.	German	       responded	“neutral”	to	a	survey	question	
Authority	(EFSA)	published	its	management	      (Die	Welt,	ARD,	Der	Spiegel)	and	British	         that	asked	participants	to	circle	the	word	
plan	for	2007	on	23	January	2007,	              (Observer,	BBC	Focus	magazine)	media	have	        that	represented	their	overall	opinion	of	
including	the	establishment	of	a	working	       started	reporting	about	food	applications	        nanotechnology	and	its	potential	impact	
group	of	the	Advisory	Forum	of	Member	          of	nanotechnology,	in	some	cases	very	            on	their	life	and	society.29	However	the	
States	representatives	on	risk	assessment	      critically.                                       2006	National	Science	Foundation-funded	
of	nanoparticles.	It	intends	to	develop	a	                                                        survey	in	the	USA	of	public	perceptions	of	
harmonised	approach	on	risk	assessment	         In	Europe,	public	awareness	of	                   nanotechnology	products	found	that	US	
and	to	collect	the	necessary	data.24		          nanotechnology	is	gradually	emerging.	            consumers	are	willing	to	use	specific	nano-
                                                According	to	the	latest	Eurobarometer	            containing	products	even	if	there	are	health	
Public Awareness                                study	on	biotechnology	in	2005,	42%	of	           and	safety	risks	when	the	potential	benefits	
Currently,	there	is	a	huge	lack	of	knowledge	   respondents	did	not	know	if	nanotechnology	       are	high	which	is	similar	to	US	attitudes	
among	the	general	public	(as	well	as	experts	   would	have	positive	or	negative	impacts	on	       regarding	GMOs.30
as	discussed	above)	about	nanotechnology	       their	lives.	40%	were	positive,	13%	expected	
as	such	and	food	applications	in	particular.	   no	change,	and	5%	believed	nanotechnology	        In	2007	trade	unions	and	environmental	
Therefore	there	is	a	need	for	genuine	public	   will	deteriorate	their	life.	Only	44%	said	       organisations	are	pressing	for	a	
dialogue	to	hopefully	avoid	another	GM-         they	had	heard	of	nanotechnology.	                precautionary	approach	to	nanotechnologies	
type	situation	developing.	The	seriousness	     Nanotechnology	is	considered	morally	             and	at	the	initiative	of	the	International	
was	demonstrated	by	two	“publifocus”	           acceptable,	useful	and	not	risky,	and	            Union	of	Food,	Farm	and	Hotel	Workers	
conferences	involving	consumers	where	          most	respondents	believe	it	should	be	            expressed	particular	concern	about	the	
several	applications	of	nanotechnology	         encouraged.	55%	of	respondents	support	           presence	of	nanoparticles	in	the	food	
were	discussed	including	food	applications	     nanotechnology.26		                               chain.31	Consumer	associations	including	
held	in	Switzerland	and	in	Germany	at	                                                            the	European	Consumers’	Organisation	
the	end	of	2006.25	The	sixteen	German	          In	the	USA,	80%	of	1800	participants	in	          (BEUC)	call	for	nanolabelling,	especially	for	
consumers	involved	were	positive	about	         a	recent	survey	on	nanotechnology	had	            food	products.32	
the	opportunities	for	improved	food	safety	     heard	very	little	or	nothing	at	all	about	
by	nano-based	quality	control	but	consider	     nanotechnology.	People’s	emotions	play	           Futuristic speculations
food	applications	of	nano-ingredients	a	very	   an	important	role	in	people’s	perception	         Not	all	ideas	about	future	applications	of	
sensitive	area.	The	Swiss	consumers	were	       on	nanotechnology,	and	values	determine	          nanotechnology	in	food	closely	resemble	
generally	positive	about	nanotechnology	        people’s	reactions	to	information	on	             currently	available	food	technologies.	
but	were	most	concerned	about	food	             nanotechnology.27	American	consumers	             Even	though	such	futuristic	speculations	
applications.	Both	groups	asked	for	labeling	   expect	many	advantages	of	nanotechnology	         are	probably	not	the	aim	of	present-day	
of	nano-containing	products	although	there	     for	safer	and	better	food.	Out	of	a	survey	of	    research,	the	fact	that	they	are	suggested	in	
public	media	influences	the	public	awareness	     References
                                                  1	  Nanobiotechnology:	Responsible	Action	on	Issues	in	Society	and	Ethics:
about	food	based	on	nanotechnology.	Some	
                                                  2	  Woodrow	Wilson	Project	on	Emerging	Nanotechnologies,	A	nanotechnology	consumer	product	inventory,	
of	these	are	that	our	grandchildren	will	 
eat	vegetarian	“meat”	tasting	the	same	as	        3	 Hullmann,	European	Commission,	2006,	The	economic	development	of	nanotechnology	–	an	indicators	based		

animal	meat	to	guarantee	a	sustainable	food	      	 analysis,	European	Commission,	
                                                  4	 Jia	En	Jasmine	Li,	Boon	Huat	Bay,	Lin	Yue	Lanri	Yung,	“In	vitro	toxicity	of	Gold	nanoparticles	on	human	lung		
supply	for	the	whole	world	population	or	that	
                                                  	 fibroblast	cells”,	abstract	submitted	to	AICHE	2007	annual	meeting,	Salt	Lake	City,	USA,	4-9	November	2007,	
we	need	food	produced	with	nanotechnology	
as	a	form	of	preventive	medicine.	Consumers	      5	 Cientifica,	in	New	York	Times,	2006

                                                  6	 Helmut	Kaiser	Consultancy,	2006,	Nanotechnology	in	Food	and	Food	Processing	Industry	Worldwide,	
and	journalists	tend	to	use	other	images,	
for	example	in	Willy	Wonka’s	Chocolate	           7	 Kuzma,	Jennifer,	VerHage,	Peter,	“Nanotechnology	in	Agriculture	and	Food	production:	Anticipated	Applications”,		

Factory33	incorporating	many	kinds	of	            	 Woodrow	Wilson	Institute,	Washington	DC,	USA,	4	September	2006,
                                                  8	 Malsch,	I,	R.	van	Est,	B.	Walhout	(2007)	Nanovoedselveiligheid:	Inventarisatie	van	de	opkomende	(internationale)		
artificial	ingredients	in	novel	chocolate	
                                                  	 beleids-	en	publieksdiscussie	over	nano-ingredienten	in	voeding.	Den	Haag:	Rathenau	Institute
bars	with	some	unforeseen	effects	for	the	        9	 Iranmania,	“Iran	Agro	Sector	developing	nanotechnology”,	Iranmania,	7	september	2005,	

unsuspecting	consumer.	Originally,	Kraft	 
                                                  10	 Joseph,	Tiju,	Morrison,	Mark,	“Nanotechnology	in	Agriculture	and	Food”,	April	2006,	
Food	had	proposed	the	idea	of	a	transparent	
                                          	>	Nanoforum	reports
liquid	filled	with	various	encapsulated	nano-     11	 Prisma	&	Partners,	“Roadmap	MNT	in	Food	&	Nutrition”,	MinacNed,	2006,	
ingredients	which	can	become	a	glass	of	  
whisky,	or	orange	juice,	depending	on	the	        12

                                                  13	 GOODFOOD	project	website:
frequency	of	the	microwave	radiation	used	        14	 Boumans,	H.,	“Release	on	Command:	Bio-switch”,	pp	4-5	in	Leads	in	Life	sciences	22/2003,	TNO	Nutrition		
but	following	questions	about	safety	by	the	      	 &Food,	Zeist,	2003,	
Action	Group	on	Erosion,	Technology	and	          15	

Concentration	(ETC–group)	and	others,	            	 0083&CFTOKEN=91720936)
                                                  16	 FOM,	“Samenwerking	AMOLF	en	UNILEVER	in	onderzoek	naar	Functional	Foods”,	Press	release	20-03-07,	
Kraft	seems	to	have	abandoned	it.34	But	  
this	imaginative	yet	not	totally	impossible	      17	 NanoroadSME,	“Nanomaterial	roadmap	2015;	Roadmap	report	concerning	the	use	of	nanomaterials	in	the		

idea	keeps	popping	up	in	the	futuristic	          	 medical	&	health	sector”,	NanoroadSME,	2006,	>	downloads
                                                  18	 Ibid	8:	Malsch,	van	Est,	Walhout,	2007;	Infra	22:	EFSA,	2007)
speculation	about	food	produced	with	             19	 Infra	21:	IFST,	2006)
nanotechnology.                                   20	 IFST,	“Information	Statement	Nanotechnology”,	Institute	of	Food	Science	&	Technology,	UK,	February	2006,	

Conclusions                                       21	 EMEA,	“Reflection	Paper	on	Nanotechnology-based	Medicinal	Products	for	Human	Use,”	Committee	for		 	

                                                  	 Medicinal	Products	for	Human	Use,	EMEA,	London,	29	June	2006,	
There	is	an	urgent	need	for	informed	public	
debate	on	nanotechnology	and	food.	               22	 European	Commission,	“Regulatory	Aspects	of	Nanomaterials”,	17.6.2008	COM(2008)	366	

There	are	currently	several	dozen	food	and
beverage	products	with	nanotechnology	on	         24	 EFSA,	„Management	Plan	of	the	European	Food	Safety	Authority	for	2007“,	European	Food	Safety	Authority,		

the	market	according	to	their	producer	or	        	 Parma,	23	January	2007,	
experts.	Governments	and	food	companies	  
in	several	countries	are	investing	in	hundreds	   26	 European	Commission,	“Special	Eurobarometer	244b:	“Europeans	and	Biotechnology	in	2005:	Patterns	and		
of	projects	developing	nanotechnology	in	         	 Trends”,
food	and	agriculture.	Market	analysts	predict	    27	 Kahan,	D.M.	et	al,	“Nanotechnology	Risk	Perception.	The	influence	of	affect	and	values”,	2007,	Washington	D.C:		

                                                  	 Woodrow	Wilson	Institute,
billion	dollar	markets	for	food	produced	with	    28	 Macoubrie,	Jane,	“Informed	Public	Perceptions	of	Nanotechnology	and	Trust	in	Government”,	Woodrow	Wilson		
nanotechnology	within	five	years.	However,	       	 Institute	Project	on	Emerging	Nanotechnologies,	2005,	p9,	11,		
without	commonly	accepted	definitions	    
                                                  29	 Castellini,	O	M	et al.	“Nanotechnology	and	the	public:	Effectively	communicating	nanoscale	science	and		 	
for	nanotechnology,	food	produced	with	
                                                  	 engineering	concepts”,	Journal	of	Nanoparticle	Research,	2006
nanotechnology	and	other	relevant	terms,	         30	 Currall,	S.C.	et	al,	“What	drives	public	acceptance	of	nanotechnology”,	Nature	Nanotechnology,	1(3),	

it	is	difficult	to	determine	how	many	products	   	 December	2006
                                                  31	 IUF,	“Principles	for	the	Oversight	of	Nanotechnologies	and	Nanomaterials,”	website	International	Union	of	Food,		
actually	include	new	nanomaterials.	
                                                  	 Farm	and	Hotel	Workers	Worldwide,	March	2007,	
Nanotechnology	can	be	applied	in	all	
aspects	of	the	food	chain,	both	for	improving	    32	 According	to	Holger	Krawinkel	of	BEUC	during	a	panel	on	nanolabelling	at	the	Euronanoforum	2007	conference	in		

food	safety	and	quality	control,	and	as	novel	    	 Düsseldorf,	Germany,	June	2007,	
                                                  33	 Renton,	A.	‘Welcome	to	the	world	of	nanofood’,	In:	The	Observer,	Guardian	Unlimited.	16	December	2006,	
food	ingredients	or	additives,	which	may	
lead	to	unforeseen	health	risks.	The	current	     34	 ETC	group<	“Down	on	the	farm;	The	impact	of	nano-scale	technologies	on	food	and	agriculture”,	ETC	Group,		

strict	food	legislation	in	Europe	seems	to	       	 2004,	or	
be	sufficient	to	cover	food	produced	with	        	 materials/publications.html?pub_id=81

nanotechnology.	There	are	some	concerns	
about	implementation	guidelines	and	risk	
assessment	methods.	The	general	public	
lacks	awareness	of	nanotechnology	in	
general,	and	applications	of	nanotechnology	
in	food	in	particular.	This	must	be	addressed	
in	public	dialogue	initiatives	in	the	short	
term.                                             Design: Gerritsma Vormgeving bno, Leiden, e, w
                                                  The Images: Courtesy of the Molecular Biophysics Group at Delft University of Technology

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