Untested, unlabelled and potentially unsafe: Nano foods and products on supermarket shelves in Europe

11 March 2008

Brussels (Belgium), 11 March - Untested and potentially hazardous manufactured nanomaterials can be found in food, food packaging and other products on supermarket shelves in the European Union, according to a new report released today by Friends of the Earth Europe.

'Out of the laboratory and on to our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture' [1] reveals that despite concerns about the toxicity risks of nanomaterials, consumers are unknowingly ingesting them because regulators are struggling to keep pace with their rapidly expanding use.

Nanotechnology - the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules - is now used in the manufacture of products such as nutritional supplements, cling wrap and containers, antibacterial kitchenware, processed meats, chocolate drinks, baby food and chemicals used in agriculture. At least 104 food and agricultural products containing manufactured nanomaterials, or produced using nanotechnology, are currently on sale worldwide. Furthermore, industry analysts also estimate that there are several hundred nano food products on the international market.

Friends of the Earth's investigation reveals that in the EU, and elsewhere in the world, laws are ill-equipped to deal with the unique properties of nanomaterials [2].

The group is calling on European policy-makers to adopt comprehensive and precautionary legislation to manage the risks caused by the use of nanotechnology and is recommending the introduction of policies supporting sustainable food and farming in order to improve public and environmental health.

Helen Holder, coordinator of the Food and Farming campaign at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Europeans should not be exposed to potentially toxic materials in their food and food packaging until proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. Policy-makers must stop claiming that existing regulatory frameworks are adequate to deal with the emerging science of nanotechnology and address the gaps in current food safety legislation as soon as possible."

"In the absence of proper safety regulations or mandatory labelling, consumers are being left in the dark about the products they are consuming and are unknowingly putting their health and the environment at risk," she added.

Out of the laboratory and on to our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture was released internationally today in Europe, the USA and Australia.

***

NOTES:

[1] The full report, 'Out of the laboratory and on to our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture', is available in the downloads.

[2] Friends of the Earth has analysed the following pieces of EU legislation: Food Law Regulation 178/2002, Novel Foods Regulation 258/97, Food Additive Use Directive 89/107, Food Packaging Regulation (EC 1935/2004) as well as the Pesticides and Biocides laws (Directive 91/414, Council Directive 79/117, Regulation 396/2005 and Directive 98/8/EC, Directive 76/769/EEC) and have found them inadequate to manage the new risks associated with nanofoods. For further information see downloads.

 

    • Agriculture

      Food and farming in Europe and its global impacts

    • Agrofuels

      Plant-based fuels from agriculture. Also known as biofuels

    • Biodiversity

      Species and habitat protection in Europe and around the globe

    • GMOs

      Genetically modified crops and organisms

    • Land

      Measuring Europe’s land footprint and tackling the drivers of land grabbing

    • Biodiversity

      Species and habitat protection in Europe and around the globe

    • Extractive industries

      Oil and gas exploration, and mining

    • Land

      Measuring Europe’s land footprint and tackling the drivers of land grabbing

    • Tar sands

      Unconventional oil, also known as oil sands

    • Water use

      Measuring Europe’s water footprint