On June 9, 2020, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (Anses) announced the publication of a review on the presence of engineered nanomaterials in food. The review identified three primary uses of engineering nanomaterials in the food industry:
- As additives to improve the appearance and palatability of the food product (e.g. by modifying its structure, color or texture)
- In food contact materials (FCMs) to improve packaging safety (e.g. using nano-silver as an antimicrobial)
- As ingredients offering a nutritional function (e.g. calcium carbonate in infant formula to ensure sufficient calcium content)
It specifically identified a set of 7 substances proven to be used as food additives or ingredients in a nano-form and an additional 30 substances where use in a nano-form is suspected. Existing food databases show that 900 food products have at least one proven use of an additive or ingredient with the presence of engineered nanomaterials. Of these 900 products, the most prominent food categories included are “infant formula (25.6%), confectionery (15.6%), breakfast cereals (14.8%), cereal bars (12.9%), and frozen pastries and desserts (10.9%).”
Anses explains that the next step in its work is to “study the potential consumer health risks posed by these substances.” It argues that the properties of engineered nanomaterials require a “tailored approach to assessing the health risks” in food and that this can be used “to decide whether a standard or nanospecific risk assessment is required.” The agency plans to apply such an approach to a selection of substances and publish a proposed nanospecific risk assessment methodology by early 2021.
Anses (May 2020). “Nanomaterials in food products.” (pdf) (in French)