Nanomaterials in Food and Food Contact Substances - Hazards, Risks and Regulation

J. Cohen
United States

Keywords: nanomaterials, food, food contact substances, nanotoxicology, nano regulation, consumer exposures


The increasing number and variety of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) used in food and food contact materials raise concerns regarding potential hazards and risks to human health. ENMs are used for a wide variety of applications from enhancing the strength and reducing the weight of food packaging materials, to helping eliminate foodborne pathogens. The unique physical-chemical properties that provide their desirable functionality may also impart unique bioactivity that could potentially lead to human health hazards and risks. Tools for evaluating risks across the life cycle of nano-enabled products are emerging though major data gaps still exist, especially regarding characterization of consumer level exposures. Furthermore, most animal and cellular toxicity studies to date focus on freshly generated nanoscale materials that are not necessarily representative of consumer-level exposures. ENM properties relevant for biointeractions can vary greatly between the raw material, the nano-enhanced food or food contact substance, and any releases that may occur across the life cycle of the nano-enhanced product. Regulatory agencies in the U.S. (EPA, FDA) are currently trying to understand and manage potential risks to human health and the environment. Meanwhile, nano product registries and mandatory reporting practices are emerging in Canada, France, Belgium, and other EU nation states, intending to facilitate monitoring and prevent potential hazards. In light of the ubiquitous nature of nano exposures from food, there is continued need for methods to integrate nano-risk assessments across the life cycle of nano-containing products.