Use of nanomaterials in food packaging poses regulatory challenges

Jun 25, 2008

[B]Report uses product scenarios to examine the oversight and regulatory pathways to commercialization[/B]
Engineered nanoscale materials (ENMs), which contain novel properties that offer potential benefits for use in food packaging, raise new safety evaluation challenges for regulators and industry, according to a report released today by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

The food-packaging industry, food companies and consumers all share an interest in ensuring that any possible safety questions are identified and are carefully evaluated and resolved before marketing packaging materials that contain ENMs, according to the report authored by former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy official Michael R. Taylor.

The PEN-GMA report, Assuring the Safety of Nanomaterials in Food Packaging: The Regulatory Process and Key Issues, was a result of an effort by experts from government, industry and the public interest community to examine the path of a number of hypothetical nanotechnology food packaging applications through the current regulatory system. The regulatory system for food packaging is scientifically rigorous and extraordinarily complex, both legally and scientifically. This first-of-its-kind analysis provides a better understanding of the potential regulatory issues on the horizon for nanotechnology-enabled packaging – an advantage for industry, consumers and regulatory agencies such as FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"The system is not widely understood and legitimate questions have been raised about how it would apply to nanoscale substances used in food packaging," says Taylor, who is currently a research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. "Those companies developing ENMs for use in packaging will need to work closely with FDA and EPA to make sure the questions identified in this report concerning potential risks are answered."

Consumer acceptance of the use of nanomaterials in food packaging is very important and will be greatly dependent on the demonstrated benefits and safety of the new packaging products, according to PEN Director David Rejeski.

"The benefits of using nanomaterials in the next generation of food packaging are nothing short of amazing, but we have to make sure these materials will not pose any harm down the line," Rejeski says.

Nanotechnology has the potential to reshape the food packaging industry in the decades ahead and these product scenarios will help set a roadmap toward both regulatory and consumer acceptance successes.

"Clearly, nanotechnology offers tremendous opportunities for innovative developments in food packaging that can benefit both consumers and industry. However, before these packaging innovations can be brought to market, we must ensure that the food-packaging industry, through working closely with government, understands the regulatory framework currently in place along with its many requirements," says Robert Brackett, GMA's chief science officer.

Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Explore further: Dye-sensitized solar cell absorbs a broad range of visible and infrared wavelengths

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Date labeling confusion contributes to food waste

Jun 23, 2014

Date labeling variations on food products contribute to confusion and misunderstanding in the marketplace regarding how the dates on labels relate to food quality and safety, according to a scientific review paper in the ...

The promise and peril of nanotechnology

Mar 26, 2014

Scientists at Northwestern University have found a way to detect metastatic breast cancer by arranging strands of DNA into spherical shapes and using them to cover a tiny particle of gold, creating a "nano-flare" ...

Cutting through the rhetoric on hunters vs. wildlife

Jan 22, 2014

The recent Timemagazine cover story "America's Pest Problem (Time to Cull the Herd)" pairs a provocative headline with a photograph of a slender white-tailed doe in a dewy wood. Although not a regular re ...

Recommended for you

A new way to make microstructured surfaces

Jul 30, 2014

A team of researchers has created a new way of manufacturing microstructured surfaces that have novel three-dimensional textures. These surfaces, made by self-assembly of carbon nanotubes, could exhibit a ...

Tough foam from tiny sheets

Jul 29, 2014

Tough, ultralight foam of atom-thick sheets can be made to any size and shape through a chemical process invented at Rice University.

User comments : 0