Consumer confidence in Europe’s food industry could be damaged if the use of nanotechnology is not properly regulated or managed, the CIAA Congress in Brussels was told today (19 November).

In its final conference session, delegates debated the question of trust between food manufacturers and the public.

Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stressed a recent report by the EU’s Eurobarometer survey that had shown European consumers were increasingly trusting EU food manufacturers on safety and quality.

She said: “Those polled showed consumers’ trust is certainly improving. They even mentioned the pleasure aspect of food, improving cooking at home or going out to dinner.”

However, Geslain-Lanéelle said the poll showed “of the risks, chemical contamination was the biggest fear [and] nanotechnology is also a cause of anxiety”.

As a result, Geslain-Lanéelle said, unless the food industry was careful, discussions about nanotechnology move into the realm of paranoia and the sector would have to endure “a completely irrational debate” like the controversy over GM food.

Meanwhile, the EFSA director also complained about excessive numbers of EU regulations, which she argued made her job of fostering trust harder to communicate and manage. “EFSA now has 38 different workloads to deal with. Why so many? Couldn’t there be some simplification?”