Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) have today released a report which highlights the failure of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to ensure that nanomaterials used in the Australian food chain are safe. The Report,
Way too little, shows that nanomaterials are already in the Australian food chain – in foods, packaging, coatings and agricultural chemicals.

Jeremy Tager, a campaigner with FoEA’s Nanotechnology Project said “FSANZ promised that if nanomaterials were used in food they would require a safety assessment. This has not happened.

“Not only are nanomaterials in the food chain, the number of products containing them is expanding rapidly. And the number of peer reviewed studies indicating health concerns with certain nanomaterials has grown significantly since we issued our first report on the use of nanotechnology in food in 2008.

“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 contact products, where they are being used, and do not require even basic safety testing – raising serious health concerns.”

In recent documents submitted to Parliament (1) FSANZ admitted that they haven’t surveyed manufacturers and importers to establish whether they are using nanomaterials in food, or tested foods for the present of nanomaterials. This includes foods available here that were found to contain nanomaterials when tested in the United States (2).

“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 (2).

“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, pending full safety assessments, and the establishment of a mandatory register to allow the tracking of these materials through the food chain.

Media Contact Jeremy Tager, Nanotechnology Project Campaigner: 0400 376 974

1) Senate Estimates Question on notice, February 2014, questions SQ14-000074, SQ14-000075, SQ14-000080.

2) Weir, A. et al. (2012) Titanium dioxide nanoparticles in food and personal care products, Environmental Science and Technology 46:2242-2250