Proposed uses, safety concerns and regulations
Nanotechnology encompasses research and applications of materials in the range of 10-100 nanometers where one nanometer is 10-9 meter. Proposed nanotechnology applications in consumer products and the food system appear to offer consumer benefits but concerns about safety and regulation have emerged. Herein we summarize existing and proposed nanoapplications in agricultural production, food manufacturing, processing and packaging. We include the safety concerns surrounding manufacture and use of nanomaterials in food products, and outline the status of food nanotechnology regulations in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).
With the world population projected to over 8 billion by 2025 (1), the need for innovation and technologies to expand the food supply has never been more important. Nanotechnology is a powerful new technology that encompasses the use of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), with at least one dimension at the molecular or atomic level of 10-100 nanometers (nm) where a nanometer is 10-9 meter (2) (Figure 1).
Nanoparticles (NPs) contained in ENMs are microscopic particles between 1-100 nm with all three dimensions in the nanoscale (2). Nanoparticles differ from their macro counterparts in their ability to self-assemble, response to gravity, chemical reactivity, conductivity, strength, solubility, absorption rates and bioavailability (2). NPs can occur naturally (e.g., lipoproteins, micelles) or be engineered in a laboratory (e.g., zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) (2). Production is either a top-down process of reducing macro materials to the desired nano-size, for example, milling of wheat to produce NPs with great water retention (3) or by a bottom-up process of building or assembling structures from the atomic or molecular level, e.g., spo ...