Experts call for more oversight of nano food additives

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — Food additives containing nanoscale materials should be subject to new safety testing to ensure use of such materials does not pose unintended risks, according to nanotechnology policy experts.

Policy experts at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies are urging the Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance on how existing listings for food additives and "generally recognized as safe" substances apply to nanoscale materials. Such action would help increase consumer confidence and private-sector investment in new technologies.

"Failure by F.D.A. to issue any guidance for nano food additives leaves the door open to manufacturers to make their own judgments and enter the market without F.D.A. clearance, despite having a material with novel properties," said David Rejeski, director of PEN. "Clear F.D.A. guidance for nanoscale food additives combined with a pre-market evaluation would provide a level playing field and rules of the road for industry developing new applications based on nanoscale materials."

This comes as nanotechnology appears to be a major regulatory challenge facing the Obama administration and as debate on how to restructure the F.D.A. and possibly create a separate government food safety agency is ongoing.

"The time may come when the body of scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of a nanoscale food additive is sufficient to meet the GRAS standard," said Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for PEN. "But the science is not close to meeting that level of confidence now."

The worldwide nanotechnology food market is expected to grow to more than $20 billion by 2010.

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