FDA Moves to Clear Up Nanotech Guidelines

June 22, 2011

FDA to regulate nanotech. Find out what it is and where it's being used in the food industry

A couple of weeks ago the FDA issued a draft guidance that seeks to more accurately and adequately define nanoparticles and advise industries on how to use them. The guidance could significantly impact the development, release, and use of new consumer products that use nanotech. Manufacturers may be subject to safety testing and guidelines regarding nanoparticles previously - because of their size, nanoparticles were deemed safe.
In 2010, the Federal Government allocated $1.6 billion from the proposed Budget to the National Nanotechnology Initiative(NNI). How does this apply to food? Today, food scientists around the globe are working to create, change, and alter certain foods on a nano-scale to taste better, increase their health properties, and make our food overall safer.   
The USDA and CSREES's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's (AFRI) plan to use nanotech to study and improve upon food safety, agricultural biosecurity, bioactives in functional foods, general health and wellness, and product traceability and identity preservation.
What is nanotech? It is the reduction of ingredients into nanometer-sized particles. A nanoparticle is between one and 1,000 nanometers; a single nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Its applications range from antimicrobial attributes to their superior delivery of certain nutrients. Nanometer-sized particles also have applications in the manufacturing of food, supplements, personal care, pesticides and product packaging.
There are already many products on stores' shelves that employ nanotech. They are used throughout the food industry as antimicrobials on cutting boards and in food packaging.
Despite their widespread use, the definition, characterization and regulation of nanoparticles by government bodies has not been set.  Nanoparticles were previously characterized and defined by size, but government agencies are realizing that despite size, particles of different matter have different properties – and need to be regulated differently. 
The next issue will be about if and how to label such foods. Yet another label!