Nanotech in food presents a regulatory challenge in Europe

November 16, 2007 — The growing use of nanotechnology in food applications poses new challenges for both science and regulation in Europe’s food and nutrition market, an industry expert said.

EAS-Italy nutritional product regulatory affairs manager Stefanie Geiser said that as the nanotechnology market continues to grow, regulators and scientists are actively working to find regulatory and risk assessment models to embrace its research and safety aspects.

The first nano-food contact material (a silicon dioxide coating) has already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) this year, and a second, titanium nitride, is under review. However, EFSA has said that it will not be able to meet the European Commission’s mandate for a complete generic risk assessment of nanotechnology by March 31, 2008 because of the vast range of existing nanomaterials with completely divergent physical/chemical properties and safety profiles.

Instead, EFSA has proposed to issue only an initial scientific opinion by summer 2008, and now plans to set up a working group of 10 to 15 Member State scientific experts to analyze and build on already generated opinions by EU scientific advisory bodies and third countries.

A first discussion on this working strategy for nanotechnology will be held by the EFSA Scientific Committee November 19 – 20, 2007. Discussions will further be followed up at the Brussels EFSA Scientific Forum event November 20 – 21.

“It will prove difficult to find a common risk assessment umbrella that can embrace the diversity of all current and future nanomaterial food applications,” Geiser said in a podcast interview. “The Commission is therefore actively involved in finding ways of integrating nanotechnology as far as possible into already existing EU regulatory frameworks. Nanotechnology aspects have recently been included in the Commission’s proposals for a revision of the EU Novel foods Regulation and also the revision of the Food Additives and Enzymes Regulations.”


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