No nano in organic foods, says UK certifier

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soil association Nanotechnology Organic food

The use of nanomaterials has been banned from organic foods by the
UK's Soil Association, the leading certifier of organic products in
the country.

The organization said yesterday that nanoparticles, tiny compounds believed by some to offer advantages in formulation, especially in health foods, are made by "potentially toxic technology that poses a serious new threat to human health". It claims to be the first organisation in the world to take action against nanotechnology although development of the technology is highly controversial. Most consumers say they do not want nanotechnology to be used in food applications, according to survey results published last month by German risk assessor BfR. Yet an estimated $9 billion is currently being spent each year on research into nanotechnology. Much of it is going towards the development of cosmetics and health products with firms such as L'Oreal, Unilever and Lancome already using the tiny particles in their products. In food too, nanotechnology is being seen by many as a key source of innovation. More than 600 nanofood products are already available on the global market, according to recent data from the Helmut Kaiser Consultancy (HKC). Moreover, HKC predicts a change of 40 to 60 per cent in the food industry by 2015 as a result of nanotechnology. Leading ingredient firms Danisco, Aarhus Karlshamnand​ Arla Foods are backing development of the technology through the NanoFood consortium. Applications in the food sector include improving the delivery of nutrients or flavours using nanoparticles. But the Soil Association says there is not enough evidence yet to support such developments emerging on the marketplace. "There is little scientific understanding about how these substances affect living organisms, indeed initial studies show negative effects,"​ said the Soil Association in a statement. Professor Vyvyan Howard, a nanotechnology researcher at the University of Ulster, noted that many nanotechnology applications are "not threatening at all", such as nano-structured surfaces for self cleaning glass. "But in the areas of health and beauty and food more research must be done. There is considerable evidence that nanoparticles are toxic and potentially hazardous." ​The Soil Association said its position was at the core of the organic movement's values of protecting human health. Gundula Azeez, Soil Association policy manager, said: "We are deeply concerned at the government's failure to follow scientific advice and regulate products. There should be an immediate freeze on the commercial release of nanomaterials until there is a sound body of scientific research into all the health impacts." ​ He compared the developments with genetically modified foods, another area that has been controversial, with many consumers suspicious of the technology involved.

Related topics Regulation & Policy

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