In May 2021, the European Commission (EC) announced the launch of a targeted stakeholder consultation to review the common definition of the term “nanomaterial” for use across all EU regulations. In 2011, the EC adopted Recommendation 2011/696/EU to define “nanomaterial” and established the requirement to review the definition at a later time to determine if it remains fit for purpose. The EC carried out a review and determined that while the definition remains fit for purpose and is generally accepted, updates across EU regulation have not been as comprehensive as expected. The review also found that the current definition limiting the term nanomaterials to only being carbon-based in some instances may be outdated, and implementation of the definition remains challenging due to a high diversity of nanomaterials.

The EC’s new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) has made reviewing the 2011 definition a priority, and therefore encouraged the launch of this most recent consultation period. Responses are being accepted until June 30, 2021.

As summarized in a recent review article published by Adeyeye and Ashaolu in the Journal of Food Process Engineering, nanomaterials are currently used in some food packaging applications and could play a wider role in the future. The authors found that silver nanoparticles are currently the most widely used as antimicrobials with nano-zinc oxide and titanium nanomaterials also available on the market. The additional mechanical, optical, and catalytic properties of nanomaterials make them potentially attractive for further packaging applications in the future, however, concerns and unknowns regarding chemical migration and health effects remain. Increasing public awareness regarding these unknowns as well as stricter regulations may end up limiting their use.

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European Commission (May 2021). “Review of the Recommendation 2011/696/EU – Stakeholder consultation.”


European Commission (May 2021). “Targeted stakeholder consultation relating to the Review of the EU recommendation on the definition of the term “nanomaterial”.”

Adeyeye S and Ashaolu T (May 2, 2021). “Applications of nano‐materials in food packaging: A review.” Journal of Food Process Engineering