Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents


Call for Evidence: Nanotechnologies and Food

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has appointed a sub-committee, chaired by Lord Krebs, investigate the use of nanotechnologies in the food sector. The Committee intends to focus on the following areas: food products, additives and supplements; food contact packaging; food manufacturing processes; animal feed; pesticides and fertilisers; and products that may come into contact with food, such as food containers and cooking utensils.

The Committee does not propose to restrict the evidence it receives by limiting witnesses to a strict definition of nanotechnologies or nanomaterials. We would welcome evidence on the use of both manufactured and naturally occurring nanotechnologies and nanomaterials.

The Committee will not be considering what happens to nanotechnologies and nanomaterials when they become waste products, or their potential impact on the environment.

The Committee invites evidence on the following questions:

State of science and its current use in the food sector

  • What are the main potential applications and benefits of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector, either in products or in the food production process?
  • What is the current state of the market for, and the use of, food products and food production processes involving nanotechnologies or nanomaterials, either abroad or in the UK?
  • What might the 'next-generation' of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials look like? How might they be applied in the food sector, and when might they enter the market?
  • What is the current state of research and development in the UK regarding nanotechnologies and nanomaterials which have or may have an application within the food sector? How does it compare to research and development in other countries?
  • What are the barriers to the development of new nano-products or processes in the food sector?

Health and safety

  • What is the current state of scientific knowledge about the risks posed to consumers by the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector? In which areas does our understanding need to be developed?
  • Is research funding into the health and safety implications of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector sufficient? Are current funding mechanisms fit for purpose?
  • Can current risk assessment frameworks within the food sector adequately assess the risks of exposure to nanotechnologies and nanomaterials for consumers? If not, what amendments are necessary?
  • Are the risks associated with the presence of naturally occurring nanomaterials in food products any different to those relating to manufactured nanomaterials? Should both types of nanomaterials be treated the same for regulatory purposes?

Regulatory framework

  • Is the regulatory framework for nanotechnologies and nanomaterials fit for purpose? How well are imported food products containing nanotechnologies and nanomaterials regulated?
  • How effective is voluntary self-regulation either in the UK or EU or at an international level? What is the take up by companies working in the food sector?
  • Will current regulations be able adequately to control the next generation of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials?
  • Is there any inter-governmental co-operation on regulations and standards? What lessons can be learned from regulatory systems in other countries?

Public engagement and consumer information

  • What is the current level of public awareness of nanotechnologies, and the issues surrounding the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector? What is the public perception of the use of such technologies and materials?
  • How effective have the Government, industry and other stakeholders been in engaging and informing the public on these issues? How can the public best be engaged in future?
  • What lessons can be learned from public engagement activities that have taken place during the development of other new technologies?
  • Should consumers be provided with information on the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in food products?

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