By Martin Banks - 27th March 2013
It is clear from what we have been told at this debate that the risk [from nanotech in food] is negligible and that is clearly good to hear
The scare stories about nanotechnology illustrates the instinctive shock-horror reaction of the green lobby
A new study has played down the potential risks arising from nanoscience and nanotechnologies used in the food chain.
The study, commissioned by PlasticsEurope, said that the risk of nano materials 'migrating' to plastics packaging and food was "negligible".
The results were published at a debate in parliament on Tuesday, co-organised by Plastics Europe and The Parliament Magazine.
While nanotechnology is already widely employed - in applications ranging from odour-free socks to novel cancer therapeutic methods - they have long been regarded as a subject requiring further study to ensure their safety.
This was the spur for PlasticsEurope, the Brussels-based association of plastics manufacturers, to commission the study.
The exhaustive exercise was conducted by Roland Franz, who heads the department of product safety and chemical analysis at the Fraunhofer IVV institute, based in Germany.
Franz, who also serves as a scientific expert on food issues to the European commission, said that after much research he had concluded that the risk of migration was "very low" and that nanomaterials in food packaging are "safe and convenient" for consumers.
He said, "There is no evidence of any migration, even under the most severe of test conditions."
His study, he added, had also showed that a more "risk based" approach to safety research would offer more clarity than labelling alone.
Italian deputy Vittorio Prodi, of the S&D group and one of several MEPs who took part in the debate, said the event had highlighted the "importance" of having "reliable, scientific" data on the potential contamination of nanotechnologies in the food chain.
He went on, "It is clear from what we have been told at this debate that the risk is negligible and that is clearly good to hear."
The event heard that the European food safety authority, in its 2009 opinion on the potential risks arising from nanoscience and nanotechnologies used in food, had recommended that action should be taken to generate more information on the properties of nanomaterials when they are exposed to consumers.
Prodi cautioned that research into the impact of nanomaterials in other non-food products such as cosmetics had yet to yield the same conclusive results.
He said, "I think we can be pretty sure about the food safety aspects in this but maybe less certain about other things."
However, another MEP, Roger Helmer, of the UK Independence Party, described the findings as "reassuring".
Helmer, his party's spokesperson on energy affairs, added, "The scare stories about nanotechnology illustrates the instinctive shock-horror reaction of the green lobby to almost any new technology."