FDF supports the use of nanotechnology as a general enabling technology with
widespread industrial applications, including potential uses in food
food safety and packaging. Application of nanotechnologies in the food industry
at an early stage and to the best of our knowledge the UK food and drink
manufacturing industry does not currently use engineered nanomaterials in food
products, their processing or their packaging.
As an innovative and progressive industry, the food industry is interested in
research and new developments based on the use of scientific understanding,
including the application of nanotechnologies. There are potentially useful
applications for the food and drink industry, such as in nanoencapsulation of
vitamins and minerals; and in food packaging. This could improve keeping
and/or indicate any microbiological deterioration of food products.
There is a need to distinguish between natural occurrence of nanoparticles such
as in protein, fat or sugar molecules, or their presence through conventional
processing techniques, such as milling, homogenising and emulsifying and where
particle size has been deliberately engineered to behave differently to its
conventional counterpart. We believe there is a need for adequate safety
where the use of nanotechnology gives rise to changes in existing products or
processes, such that any risks to human health or the environment may need to
FDF welcomes the recognition given to the importance of nanotechnology by HM
Government and the inter-departmental nature of its policy approach.
of the potential use of nanotechnologies in food and drink manufacture, and how
it should be regulated, is currently part of a wider debate on the application
of new technologies from the scientific, societal and economic viewpoints.
FDF is closely following and actively involved in national, EU and international
activities in nanotechnologies and its implications for the food industry
including monitoring work underway by both the Commission’s independent
Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) and the
Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on safety evaluations and closing knowledge gaps.
Nanotechnology is an enabling technology with potential applications across a
wide range of industrial and consumer products. It involves the manufacturing
utilising of the special properties of material at nanoscale (the nanoscale is
regarded to range from about 1 nanometre (nm) to 100 nanometres).
The very different activities and applications of the materials that exert
special properties at the nanoscale are more accurately described as
The debate about the use of nanotechnologies has been growing in importance for
several years and is now a key policy issue across Government, and at EU and
In June 2003, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering were asked
to carry out an independent study into current and future nanotechnology
developments. This Royal Society Report was published in July 2004 and made a series of recommendations aimed at
ensuring the responsible development and management of nanotechnologies.
The UK Government published its response in February 2005. This included a commitment for relevant departments to review
existing regulations to identify any gaps to ensure that human health and the
environment are adequately protected from any potential risks from
As part of this exercise, Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out a review of
existing food and feed regulations in relation to the use of nanotechnologies.
The FSA report (including FDF's response) (pdf) was issued for public consultation and it concluded on the basis of current
information that the uses of nanotechnologies could potentially affect food
which are covered by current food regulations. Any food areas affected would
under a form of approval process before being permitted for use.
FDF is of the view that direct applications of nanotechnologies in food appear
limited. There is some interest at ingredient level, particularly in delivery
systems, and in potential indirect applications in, for example, packaging,
processing applications and food safety.
The already very comprehensive framework of food regulations is being adapted to
ensure that they take account of any applications of nanotechnologies in food
and drink products. This also covers their processing and packaging, according
new scientific developments and any evidence of the safety of the product or
There is general recognition that gaps remain in our knowledge of emerging
nanotechnologies and engineered nanomaterials. Considerable research is
assess their safety at all stages; from manufacture and exposure in the work
place to their eventual fate in the environment.
Last reviewed: 20 Jan 2014