EVIDENCE FROM FRANCE
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?
There are many potential applications and benefits
of nanotechnology and nanomaterials in the food sector from food
production such as cultivation (eg nano-pesticides) to food processing
like the packaging of foods. In addition nanotechnologies can
be used to enhance the nutritional aspects of food by means of
nanoscale additives and nutrients and nanosized delivery systems
for bioactive compounds. Table 1 summarises the potential
applications of nanotechnology in the food production chain. These
applications are expected to find their way into various products
for consumer use in the coming years in France.
APPLICATIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY IN THE FOOD
What is the current state of the market for, and
the use of, food products and food production processes involving
nanotechnologies or nanomaterials in France?
The current state of the French market is estimated
to be very small. According to the experts contacted, it is likely
that the nanotechnology applications will be similar to what will
be found elsewhere in the Western world as a result of globalisation.
Many international food companies (eg Nestle)
have subsidiaries in France. These companies are known to be interested
in the applications of nanotechnology in this sector so there
is a distinctive possibility of an issue on nanotechnology in
food in France although it will not be confined only to
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?
The use of nano-materials in food packaging
and food additives is expected to correspond to the two main types
of applications. Use in food packaging is expected to take off
over the next few years as it is likely to be more acceptable
to the general public (ie little (supposedly) contamination of
the food). Food additives will be the next target although it
is expected that there will be resistance from consumers.
What is the current state of research and development
in France regarding nanotechnologies and nanomaterials which have
or may have an application within the food sector?
The French National Research Agency (ANR) supports
several programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology, which may
lead to new applications within the food sector. These include:
Pnano, dedicated to nanoscience
and nanotechnology and supporting projects of basic and applied
research in nanocomponents, micro-nanosystems, nanobiotechnology,
nanomaterials, instrumentation and metrology, modelling and simulation.
A special section deals with the impact and risks of nanotechnology
on health and the environment as well as with ethical and societal
Materials and Processes focuses
on research into new materials and industrial processes, improvement
of their technical and economic performance and stimulation of
technology transfer to industry.
SEST (Health Environment and Health
Work): the goal of this program is to reveal the impact, as yet
unknown, of environmental factors on human health by measuring
the exposure to these factors and identifying their role in the
origin or the worsening of some diseases. This program deals particularly
with the potential toxicity of nanoparticles.
ANR also recently launched a programme called
ALIA (Spring 2008) on food and in particular food processes encouraging
the use of nanotechnology.
All in all, although France is currently running
a large number of R&D activities in the area of nanotechnology
and nanomaterials, only a minority of projects is dealing with
What are the barriers to the development of new
nano-products or processes in the food sector?
France will find doubt and objection from consumers
to be the main barriers to the development of nano-products in
the food sector. The main issue in France, at the moment, is carbon
nanotube because of its similarity to asbestosa story that
was not very well handled by the French health authorities. The
CEA is now the main organisation handling nano-issues in France
because of its success in handling the very sensitive issue of
Atomic Energy. AFSSA is also heavily involved in this area and
has recently published an official communiqu
on nanoparticles in water.
It is important to note, as a conclusion, that
the European Commission has already put calls for research on
detection and characterisation of nanoparticles in the food as
part of the Framework programme and this is the first in a series
of calls on risk assessment of nanoparticles in the food. So there
is action at the European level on this issue which will undoubtedly
Note: This Annex was compiled with the assistance
of the Institute of Medicine (IoM), Edinburgh, from information
supplied by the Commissariat à l' Energie Atomique (CEA)
and the AFSSA (the French Food Standards Agency).
The scientific evidence used by the French comes
from (a) the reports and paper published by Dr Qasim Chaudhry
of the Central Science Laboratory (York) from works in collaboration
with the IOM and sponsored by the UK FSA, (b) a report by the
RIKKILT and RIVM institutes in Holland, and (c) a report compiled
by Friends of the Earth.