Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (MEPs) last week voted for a moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in food until have undergone safety assessments by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Jeremy Tager, Emerging Tech Campaigner with Friends of the Earth said “the Committee’s position is in marked contrast to that of our food regulator in Australia. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) currently has no regulation regarding the use of nanomaterials in food and food packaging, despite research showing that nanomaterials are already in the Australian food chain.”

According to the MEPs “Special attention should also be paid to food packaging containing nanomaterials, to prevent them migrating into food. And in line with the precautionary principle, all novel food should also be subject to post-market monitoring.

Mr Tager said “the Committee’s ruling is a triumph for common sense. Quite simply nanomaterials shouldn’t be used in food and food packaging until they have been proven safe. Unfortunately in Australia – when it comes to nanomaterials in food – we appear to have a serious deficit of common sense, regulation and post-market monitoring. It’s a commercial free-for-all with FSANZ asleep on the sidelines.

“Ten years after the UK Royal Society called for regulation of nanotechnology, FSANZ has still failed to take even basic steps to regulate the use of nanomaterials in food. They don’t know what nanomaterials are in food and food packaging, where they are being used, and do not require even basic safety testing – raising serious health concerns.” said Mr Tager.

Last month, Friends of the Earth revealed that FSANZ had decided to omit nanomaterials from its review of chemical migration from food packaging into food because it doesn’t know enough about the issue.

“FSANZ is protecting big business while public health is being put at risk. One of the most common nanomaterials used in food is nano titanium dioxide (TiO2) which is used as a whitener and brightener in a range of foods, including lollies, chewing gum and doughnuts. Children between the age of 2 and 4 have been found to have the highest exposure levels.

“Animal studies of nano titanium dioxide show that it can damage DNA, disrupt the function of cells, interfere with the immune system, cross the intestinal tract and cause organ damage. Food products containing nano titanium dioxide shouldn’t be on the market unless the manufacturers can demonstrate that it is safe,” concluded Mr Tager.

Friends of the Earth Australia is calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in food and food packaging, pending full safety assessments, and the establishment of a mandatory register to allow the tracking of these materials through the food chain.