Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Annex 2


  There is no systematic reporting system in China about nanotechnology in the food sector and thus information is limited.

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?

  Nanotechnology within the food production chain is used in agricultural cultivation, food processing and manufacturing, animal feed, additives, supplements, and food packaging.

What is the current state of the market for, and the use of, food products and food production processes involving nanotechnologies or nanomaterials, in China?

  The field of food nanotechnology has experienced significant growth over the last five years in China. There is no statistical data available on the level of use but it is widespread.

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?

  It is still not clear what the next generation of nanotechnologies will look like but we would expect them to enter the market and quickly spread throughout all phases of agro-food production.

What is the current state of research and development in China 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?

  R&D on nanotechnologies is quite advanced and is comparable to other countries. Focus is not in the food sector directly but other sectors such as antimicrobial nano-kitchenware, food packaging, sun screen, cosmetics, textiles, etc.

What are the barriers to the development of new nano-products or processes in the food sector?

  Safety issues and acceptance by the public are key barriers to the development of new nano-products or processes in the food sector. A current concern is that there is too little information available on the properties of nanoparticles and their potential impact such as how the body motabilises nanoparticles because of their varying size and high mobility. There is also no requirement for manufacturers to label nanoparticles on their products, and consumers are unlikely to be aware of such applications in foods.

Is the regulatory framework for nanotechnologies and nanomaterials fit for purpose? How well are imported food products containing nanotechnologies and nanomaterials regulated?

  The current regulatory framework for nanotechnologies and nanomaterials is inadequate in China though recent general legislation on food safety should help plug some gaps. Many imported food products to China are not properly inspected and domestic standards from the country of origin are not always available for review.

How effective is voluntary self-regulation at an international level? What is the take up by companies working in the food sector?

  Food nanotechnology is an emerging field and good regulation is a critical issue. Self-regulation in China is difficult to measure but is likely to be focused on food safety. If the nanoparticles are shown to be safe then that could be the end of any self-regulation by a company. Take up by companies is unknown but probably widespread.

Will current regulations be able adequately to control the next generation of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials?

  In China, the answer is no. The current regulatory system does not require manufacturers to label whether nanoparticles are present in their product. Regulations are also not particularly extensive in relation to the development and manufacture of nanoparticles.

Is there any inter-governmental co-operation on regulations and standards? What lessons can be learned from regulatory systems in other countries?

  China is not presently having any specific discussions about international regulation of nanotechnology in food products.

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