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Nano-foods: No labels, no safety testing – our report reveals new toxic risks

Our new report reveals that at least 104 food, food packaging and agricultural products containing nano-ingredients are now on sale internationally. These include diet replacement milkshakes, cooking oil, tea and fortified fruit juice; food additives sold for use in processed meats, soft drinks, bakery and dairy products; long-life and antibacterial food packaging; and antibacterial kitchenware.

In light of the evidence that many nano-ingredients used in these products pose new toxic risks for humans and the environment, Friends of the Earth is calling for a halt to the sale of nanofoods until they can be shown to be safe.

Back in 2004 the world's oldest scientific body, in its report "Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties", the United Kingdom's Royal Society, said that given serious early warning signs of nanotoxicity, nano-ingredients shouldn't be allowed in products until they pass new safety testing by independent authorities. Since then, scientists have gathered more and more evidence that nanomaterials now in use by the food industry – like nano silver, nano titanium dioxide and nano zinc - can be toxic to humans and the environment.

Yet Australian laws do not require food companies to conduct new safety tests on nano ingredients before putting them in foods if these ingredients have previously been used in larger form. This leaves many – if not most – nano-ingredients effectively unregulated. It is impossible to know how many nanofoods are now on sale in Australia, because companies are not required to label nano-ingredients – and they are certainly not choosing to!

Despite having big budget nano research programs, companies like Kraft, Nestle, Unilever and Pepsi Co. refuse to say publicly whether or not their food now contain nano. We do know that packaging for Cadbury chocolates, antibacterial kitchen wipes and cleaning sprays, and refrigerators sold in Australia by Samsung, Hitachi and LG Electronics now contain manufactured nanomaterials.

We also know that the nanofood additives and ingredients reviewed in our report (below) are found in foods in Europe and the USA, but we have no idea whether they are also found in Australian foods. Friends of the Earth Australia is calling for a halt to the sale of nanofood, food packaging and agricultural chemicals until new laws are enacted to ensure their safety, nano ingredients are labelled so people can choose whether or not they want to eat nanofoods, and the public is involved in nanotechnology decision making.

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Nanotechnology in food and agriculture - text only version.pdf558.04 KB
Nanotechnology in food and agriculture - web resolution.pdf3.67 MB