Safety testing of nanotechnology-based food ingredients is likely to prove difficult for food safety regulators, a leading expert in the field as told an Amsterdam conference on nanotechnology. In many cases, officials will be almost entirely reliant on the good faith of food manufacturers when it comes to the verification and approval of products for the consumer market.

Speaking at a conference Nano and Micro technologies in the Food and Food Health Industries, organised by the Stirling, Scotland-based Institute of Nanotechnology, Neville Craddock, an independent consultant, outlined a series of possible deficiencies in the scope and application of current legislation.

One of the key challenges, he said, was the practical difficulty of testing for a nanoparticle that was embedded in a manufactured, processed product. “The analysis of a particle-sized item in a food product would not be an every-day test,” he said. As a result, inspectors would be relying on examining paper records of the process of manufacture.

“We need to get the regulatory and legal background absolutely clear even before the food goes out into the market, because when it does, enforcement is going to be extremely difficult,” said Craddock. “It will involve a very complex paper chase.”