Concerns over nanotechnology in food
By Lucy Warhurst
A new study claims wide-scale use of nanotechnology in our food.
Friends of the Earth Australia, who commissioned the research, says it's not safe for human consumption and wants products using it taken off the shelves.
The recent study of 14 popular products found evidence of nanotechnology in all of them, including M&Ms, Coffee-Mate, Kool Mints and Old El Paso Taco Mix.
"Every single one of the foods contained nano materials in percentages that were very high," says Friends of the Earth's Jeremy Tager.
The study used products found in an Australian supermarket, but eight of them can be found in New Zealand supermarkets.
The ingredients are things like silica, which stops things sticking together, and titanium dioxide, which makes products look whiter.
Mr Tager says some studies have shown worrying results.
"They showed on a nano scale titanium dioxide can cross the placental barrier, and that it can cross the blood brain barrier."
Mr Tager says the concern is that particles on a nano scale, which is 1000 times smaller than even the microscopic scale, can better permeate the body and be more toxic.
"That's a valid concern and there have been clinical trials showing that some things when they're smaller could be a bit more dangerous for your health," says Dr Michelle Dickinson.
While Food Standards says there is little evidence nanotechnologies are being used widely in the food industry, Friends of the Earth says they're just not testing for it.
Either way, Dr Dickinson says we shouldn't be concerned.
"There's nothing I've seen at the levels we put them in that would be harmful. I choose to eat these things and I'm a nanotechnologist. I'm not worried."
Food Safety has engaged a leading toxicologist to undertake a review of nanotechnology, with a report expected at the end of the year.