By Richard Alleyne
Food manufacturers are being overly “secretive” about their research into nanotechnologies for fear of a public backlash similar to that on genetically modified food, claims a new report.
A House of Lords committee said the new technology could have very real benefits to consumers, improving the flavour, nutritional value and durability of food.
But a reluctance by the manufacturers to disclose their work was likely create a public backlash to the additives, claims a new inquiry.
Now the influential Science and Technology Committee wants an official register set up by the Food Standards Agency to keep a check on research into the controversial additives.
Nanotechnology, the science of tiny particles so small 300 million would fit on a pinhead, is a rapidly developing branch of research with benefits from everything from engineering to medicine.
For food it is thought the tiny additives could be used to reduce salt and fat contents, increase flavours and nutritional values, and prolong shelf lives.
They could also be used to develop so-called “smart packaging” that could detect exactly when food has gone off.
At the moment there is not believed to be any foods on sale in Britain containing artificial nanoparticles but around 84 are said to exist around the world, said the report.
But they are likely to on our shelves within 10 years.
Lord Krebs, the scientist and former head of the Food Standards Agency, said that the report found no evidence of danger from the particles but that their “novel properties may result in novel risks”.
He said that the food industry had been reluctant to co-operate with the Nanotechnologies and Food report.