Friends of the Earth Australia, Europe, United States, and Germany (FOE) recent published "Out of the Laboratory and On to Our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture." The hyperbolic article appears designed to scare consumers into believing they are unknowingly consuming nanoparticles:
"[i]n the absence of mandatory product labelling, public debate or laws to ensure their safety, products created using nanotechnology have entered the food chain."
Furthering a grand conspiracy theory, FOE claims "[s]ecrecy surrounds the commercial use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials by the food industry."
Of apparent primary concern to FOE are nanoscale particles of silver, titanium dioxide, zinc, and zinc oxide. FOE estimates that there are already 150-600 foods containing nanomaterials and 400-500 food packaging/contact applications using nanotechnology. These products purportedly include nutritional supplements, nutritional drinks, cooking equipment, kitchenware, food packaging, food additives, and plant growth treatments. FOE’s article also lists 29 major food and agriculture companies involved in "nanotechnology research and development," and 104 purported nano food and food-related products.
While we agree eating metallic and/or metal oxide nanoscale materials is probably not a good idea, we believe FOE has gone overboard in suggesting consumers are somehow unknowingly wolfing down nanoparticles.
Nevertheless, FOE calls for a: (i) "moratorium until nano-specific safety laws are established with public input;" (ii) treating engineered nanoscale materials as “new substances;” (iii) rigorous nano-specific testing before nanomaterials may be used in "foods, food packaging, food contact materials, or agricultural products;" (iv) increasing the upper size-limit of any regulatory definition of “nano” to 300 nm; (v) complete transparency in publishing safety assessment data; (vi) clear nano-product labeling; and (vii) public involvement in all nano-decision making processes.