The growing use of nanotechnology in food applications will pose new challenges for food scientists and regulators in Europe, according to food regulation specialists EAS.
Stefanie Geiser, nutritional product regulatory affairs manager at EAS-Italy, said that as the nanotechnology market grows, regulators and scientists are working to find regulatory and risk assessment models to embrace 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 is under review.
However, the second nano-food contact material, titanium nitride, will not meet the European Commission’s risk assessment of nanotechnology by 31 March, because of the range of existing nanomaterials with divergent physical and chemical properties and safety profiles.
Instead, EFSA has proposed to issue only an initial scientific opinion by next summer, with a working-group being set up of experts from member states to build analysis from EU scientific advisory bodies.
However, Geiser warned that their task would not be easy. “It will prove difficult to find a common risk assessment umbrella that can embrace the diversity of all current and future nanomaterial food applications.”
She said: “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.”
Geiser added: “There is no doubt that industry will continue its research into further nanotechnology techniques, because in terms of innovation this represents the biggest challenge and potential for a range of interesting and promising new food applications for the future.”