The proposal, which was approved by the EU’s Environment Committee last month, would have simplified novel food rules and allowed the use of nanoparticles. But, it was rejected by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) one day after it was approved.
MEPs said there were food safety worries surrounding the use of nanoparticles in food, amended the committee’s proposal and called for the European Food Safety Authority to implement a specific risk assessment strategy for nanofoods.
Blow to nanotech industry
However, their actions were a blow to the nanotech industry, said professor Bryan Hanley from the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network’s food division. “There have been suggestions that nanotechnology could help reduce sugar and salt content in food,” he said.
“But the knee-jerk reaction of the MEPs will undoubtedly set any developments in this area back.”
By voting for a moratorium preventing the use of nanotechnology in food, MEPs also ran the risk of unnecessarily scaring consumers into thinking the technology was dangerous, which had happened with genetically modified food, Hanley added.
“You also run the risk of halting any investment in nanotechnology development, because food businesses won’t want to invest in something that’s wrapped up in red tape and blocked,” he said.
Reduce the amount of salt and sugar
Professor Barry Park, the director of GBP Consulting, a nanotechnology consulting firm, agreed with Hanley. The moratorium could undo nutritional work to reduce the amount of salt and sugar in foods, which was beneficial to consumers and the food industry, he said.
“We’re getting into the situation where there’s some very good uses of nanotechnology, which could be valuable in nutritional terms,” Park added. “But a moratorium stopping the use of nanotechnology in foods would set that back.”
The European Green Party, however, praised the actions of the MEPs, saying they had sent a strong signal on how European food businesses should deal with novel foods, for which there were legitimate public concerns.