A new report by Friends of the Earth, Tiny Ingredients, Big Risks [PDF], documents a tenfold increase in unregulated, unlabeled “nanofood” products on the American market since 2008.
Not surprisingly, The products containing unlabeled nano-ingredients are made by major companies including Group Danone, Kraft, Campbell Soup, General Mills, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Sara Lee and Smucker’s. But, due to a lack of labeling and disclosure, a far greater number of food products with hidden nanomaterials are currently on the market than we are likely to know about.
Report author Ian Illuminato, health and environment campaigner with Friends of the Earth Says:
“Major food companies have rapidly introduced nanomaterials into our food with no labels and scant evidence of their safety, within a regulatory vacuum. Unfortunately, despite a growing body of science calling their safety into question, our government has made little progress in protecting the public, workers and the environment from the big risks posed by these tiny ingredients.”
According to the report, nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials and the creation of structures and systems at the scale of atoms and molecules, the nanoscale. These nanomaterials differ significantly from larger particles of the same chemical composition, and new studies are adding to a growing body of evidence indicating they may be more toxic to humans and the environment.
The report documents 85 food and beverage products on the market known to contain nanomaterials — including brand name products. Some are not all that surprising such as Jet Puffed Marshmallows, Nestle Original Coffee Creamer and Trix cereal. But, some are less obvious such as Fiber One Cereal, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Lindt Milk Chocolate.
The information in the report, collected from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Nanoproducts Inventory, represents a significant increase in nanofood products on the market since the last Friends of the Earth report on this topic in 2008. That report found just eight food products containing nanomaterials. In 2014 The number of nanofood and beverage products known to be on the
market has grown to 87 — a more than tenfold increase in six years.
Some of nanomaterials commonly found in food that have documented health risks include:
Roughly 200 multinational food companies are currently investing in nanotechnology and are on their way to commercializing products. The nanofoods market is expected to grow to $20.4 billion USD by 2020.
This is not the first area where the United States has allowed food companies to exploit a regulatory vacuum. This problem is similar to the government’s unwillingness to regulate the term ‘natural’ on food products. For ‘natural’ food mislabeling, it seems as if litigation — and fear of litigation — is the best path to stopping the problem. It remains to be seen if nanofood litigation can put a stop — or possibly brakes — on the rising use.
Friends of the Earth’s new report Tiny Ingredients, Big Risks: Nanomaterials rapidly entering food and farming comes with a list of products known to contain nanomaterials and the companies manufacturing them.