Nanoparticles being used in food products without regulation, without labelling

According to a report by the US environmental group Friends of the Earth, nanoparticles are being used in processed foods, are not listed on the ingredient label, and are not being regulated by any government agency. As GallonDaily and GallonLetter have previously reported, nanoparticles are extremely fine particles of various substances that illustrate chemical and biological characteristics that are often quite different from those of the parent material. According to the data published by FOE, titanium dioxide is the nanomaterial currently used most commonly in food products. FOE calls foods containing nanoparticles “nanofoods”.

Note that GallonDaily has no independent confirmation of the FOE report nor is it known whether similar additives are being used in food products sold in Canada.

The 35 page FOE report, entitled Tiny Ingredients Big Risks, states that:

  • there has been a 10-fold increase in unregulated, unlabeled “nanofood” products on the American market over the past six years. The number of nanofood and beverage products FOE knows to be on the market has grown to 94. These products are being made by major companies including Kraft, General Mills, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Smucker’s and Albertsons. Due to a lack of required labeling and disclosure, the number of food and beverage products containing undisclosed nanomaterials is likely much greater.
  • many food items that Americans eat on a daily basis contain nanomaterial ingredients. These include familiar products such as processed and cream cheeses, cookies, doughnuts, coffee creamer, chocolate syrup and other chocolate products, pudding, mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, milk, soy, almond, and rice beverages, mints, gum, popcorn, salad dressing and oils, yogurt, cereal, candy, crackers, pasta and sports drinks.
  • the nanofoods market is expected to grow to US$20.4 billion by 2020.
  • there is also mounting evidence that nanomaterials are being used to package and preserve fresh fruit and vegetable products, which could threaten the integrity of staple healthy foods.
  • nano-agrochemicals are now being used on farms and released into the environment in the absence of regulations.
  • an increasingly large body of peer-reviewed evidence indicates some nanomaterials may harm human health and the environment.
  • U.S. regulation of nanomaterials is wholly inadequate and leaves consumers, workers and the environment at risk.

Friends of the Earth makes recommendations for governments, the food industry, and consumers. For the food industry and retailers FOE recommends that food producers and retailers must stop selling nanofood, nanofood packaging, nanofood contact materials and nano-agrochemicals until:

  • The public is involved in decision making.
  • Nanotechnology-specific regulation is put in place to protect the public, workers and the environment from potential new hazards associated with nano-toxicity.
  • All manufactured nano-ingredients are clearly indicated on product labels, allowing members of the public to make an informed choice about product use.
  • The presence of nanomaterials is disclosed to workers and other downstream users along the supply chain.
  • Manufacturers work with regulators to ensure that their products have undergone appropriate safety testing, and provide the relevant data regarding the health and environmental safety of their product. No data, no market.
  • All relevant data related to safety assessments, and the methodologies used to obtain them, are placed in the public domain.
  • All food and agricultural products which include manufactured nanomaterials are clearly labeled to allow members of the public, workers and farmers to make an informed choice.

The report is available at


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