Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Annex 4


1.  Main potential applications and benefits of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector

  Potential applications and benefits:

    — improving the stability and durability of food;

    — improving the bioavailability of important nutrients;

    — better optical properties; improved flavour and consistency;

    — carrier material for other substances, eg liposomes, micellas and vesicles;

    — functional foods (nano-ceuticals);

    — food packaging (with sensors to monitor freshness);

    — pesticides (carried by nanoparticles to improve the absorption by plants); and

    — food safety (eg synthetic nanoparticles which irreversibly bind microorganisms).

  Source: Federal Institute of Risk Assessment; presentation given to the Nanotechnology Forum, Berlin, 10 November 2008

2.  Market for, and the use of, food products and food production processes involving nanotechnologies or nanomaterials in Germany?

  Current use of nanotechnology in food and dietary supplements:

    — Nano green tea—use of nanotechnology to improve the bioavailability of selenium contained on tealeaves and to enhance the antioxidant effect.

    — Frying oil "Canola Active Oil" with nano-phytosterole capsules (30 nm) to prevent the absorption of cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.

    — Dietary supplements, eg nano-vitamins, nano-calcium, nano-magnesium and nano silicon (eg Neosino capsules).

    — Carotenoid—nanostructured carotenoid might overcome the problems with insolubility in water and bad absorbability, improving the beneficial impact on health.

  Product examples:

    — NutraleaseTM—patent pending for the Nano-sized Self-assembled Liquid Structures (NSSL) technology. This uses nano-sized carriers to targeted compounds (such as nutraceuticals and drugs). These carriers are expanded micelles with a size of ~30 nanometers, referred to as fortifying nano-vehicles (FNVs). Further information available at

    — Aquanova—uses nanotechnology to produce micellas to improve the solubility of insoluble substances and to change the water/fat solubility of nutrients (eg vitamins A, C, D, E, K, ß-carotene, omega fatty acids). The patent protected NovaSOL® solutions is manufactured in ISO—and GMP certified production plants and suitable for a variety of applications in the area of food, dietary supplements, healthcare, cosmetics and pharma. They can for example easily be filled into softgels and are ready to use components for industrial processes such as preservation. AQUANOVA in 2006 received the "Excellence in Technology Award" (Frost&Sullivan) and is located in Darmstadt near Frankfurt (Germany). Further information at

  Use of inorganic compounds in food processing:

  Use of synthetically amorphous silica (SiO2) as food additive (E551), as auxiliary material to support the flow of powder (eg tomato powder, salt, spices), or as dispersion medium for vitamins.

  Source: Federal Institute of Risk Assessment; presentation given to the Nanotechnology Forum, Berlin, 10 November 2008


Source: BUND (German branch of Friends of the Earth), "Aus dem Labor auf den Teller—Nutzung der Nanotechnologie im Lebensmittelsektor" (From the lab onto the plate—use of nanotechnologies in food) (see mittel_studie.pdf)—See page 51-61 for overview of nano-enhanced food and beverages, food additives, dietary supplements, food packaging and kitchen-utensils available in Germany and in international markets.



Evonik Industries (formerly Degussa)Aerosil, Sipernat Nano-SiliziumdioxidRieselhilfe für pulverförmige Inhaltsstoffe
Rieselhilfe für pulverförmige Inhaltsstoffe AdNanoNano-Zinkoxid für Mineralzubereitungen
AquaNovaNovaSOLNano-Mizellen Bessere Aufnahme aktiver Inhaltsstoffe in Zellen und (Kapseln) Organe durch Einschluss in Nanokapseln
BASFSolu E 200Vitamin E nanosolution based on NovaSOL (see above) Ermöglicht die Zusetzung von Vitamin E zu Getränken, ohne dass dadurch Farbe oder Geschmack
NovaSOL (s.o.) beeinträchtigt werden
BASFLycoVitSynthetisches Lycopin Antioxidationsmittel
(<200 nm)

Source: BUND (German branch of Friends of the Earth), "Aus dem Labor auf den Teller—Nutzung der Nanotechnologie im Lebensmittelsektor" (From the lab onto the plate—use of nanotechnologies in food) (see mittel_studie.pdf)—See page 51-61 for overview of nano-enhanced food and beverages, food additives, dietary supplements, food packaging and kitchen-utensils available in Germany and in international markets.

3.  Research and development in Germany regarding nanotechnologies and nanomaterials which have or may have an application within the food sector?


  The Federal Government launched a number of projects in 2006 to address health and environment related issues. A total of € 7.6 million (£ 5.2 million) has been allocated to these projects for a three year period. The table below sets out public-sector and industry allocations to research into the risk of nanotechnology on human health and the environment.

Public sector funding
Industry's contribution

€ 5 m
€ 2.6 m
Dialogue on Nanoparticles
> € 1 m
€ 1.5 m
€ 1.5 m

Source: British Embassy Berlin—own research on various websites

  The table below sets out the Federal Government overall allocations to research into the ecological, ethical, social, and military as well as consumer and health-related aspects of nanotechnology, including—the above projects.

€ m
€ m
€ m
€ m
€ m

Opportunities and risks
(eg technology assessment, INOS, NanoCare)
Support measures
(eg Nanotechnology Networks, Horizon Scanning)
Education, further training, social aspects
Total in € m
(£ m)

Source: BMBF, Response to Parliamentary Question 16/2150, 31 July 2006


  The NanoCare project (first phase in 2006-09; second phase to start in 2009), a collaborative project bringing together representatives from industry, science and the wider public. Germany's government allocated €5 million to the first phase of the project, industry contributed a further €2.6 million. The project involves 13 collaborative partners, including six companies and seven research institutes. The project involves:

    — publication of data on known and unknown impact of nanomaterials on the environment and health;

    — combination of industrial manufacturing and toxicity research (BASF involved as key player);

    — development of standardised processes for the use of nanomaterials;

    — generating knowledge into the synthesis and characterisation of nanoparticles;

    — in vitro and in vivo risk assessment;

    — development of standard operating procedures for the use of nanoparticles; and

    — dialogue with the wider public.

  While NanoCare initially focused on nanoparticles used in skin care products, the later phase of the project now also includes a wider range of aspects, including:

    — research into potential exposition routes and barriers (eg pulmonary tract, gastrointestinal tract, broken skin, blood-brain-barrier, blood-plasma barrier;

    — research into the link between materials properties and human toxicity;

    — identification of response mechanisms; and

    — development of measuring strategies and testing systems.

  A follow-up call for NanoCare was launched in October 2008, the deadline for submitting further project proposals was late February 2009.

  Further information: (English); NanoCare project website at; NanoCare call for proposals October 2008 (German)


  Additionally, the BMBF funds the NanoNature programme project, which was launched in August 2008. The projects are expected to start in the first half of 2009. NanoNature focuses on the use and impact of nanotechnology in environmental protection. Nanotechnologies that may be used in clean processes and to protect the environment include:

    — water reprocessing; cleaning air and water and reprocessing polluted soil;

    — recycling processes including separation of different types materials; and

    — catalytic processes and materials separation in order to reduce harmful emissions into the environment.

  In terms of potential impact of the use of nanotechnologies in clean processes and environmental protection, NanoNature will investigate interaction between nanomaterials structure and impact identify impact parameters, taking into account harmful substances occurring naturally:

    — development of reference materials, processes and standardised testing;

    — conduct research into the mobility and transformation of nanoparticles;

    — carry out risk assessment using real matrices; and

    — develop characterisation processes for nanoparticles in air, water and soil.

  Source: Federal Ministry of Education and Research; presentation given to BfR Nanotechnology Forum, 10 November 2008; NanoNature call for proposals (German)


  NANOTOX is a joint initiative by several research institutes and companies in Dresden and Leipzig (Saxony). It seeks to establish a virtual laboratory specialising in the analysis of health and environment aspects of nanotechnology. NANOTOX aim is to become a service provider for SMEs and to carry out contract research in to the potential risk of nano-scale particles. The members of NANOTOX are:

    — Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems.

    — Max Bergmann Centre for Biomaterials.

    — UFZ Centre for Environmental Research.

    — University Clinic Dresden.

    — Namos GmbH.

  The members of NANOTOX launched the INOS research project in February 2006. INOS stands for "Identification and Assessment of Health and Environment Risks of Nano-scale Particles". The projects aim to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the potential adverse impact of nanoparticles on man and the environment. The Federal Research Ministry provides € 1 million towards the cost of the project. As a result of the project, a database will be established, which provides information about the health risks linked to individual types of nanoparticle. This will serve as a guide to companies on developments in this area.



  In March 2006 the BMBF launched TRACER, a toxicological assessment of carbon nanomaterials. The participants in this € 3 million project include four companies (including Bayer MaterialScience) and a public-sector research institute. The project aims to investigate the biocompatibility and toxicity of carbon-nanotubes and carbon nanofilaments along the whole value added chain—from manufacture, processing and blanks to prototypes. On the basis of research results, participants will make recommendations for the production and processing of carbon-nanomaterials as well as the use of relevant products.


  Bayer News Release on the NanoCare project:$File/2006-0058E.pdf (English)


  The Helmholtz Association—the umbrella for Germany's 15 large science institutes—stated a project on nanotechnology-related health risks in May 2006. This aims to develop preventive strategies to minimise health risks linked to synthetic nanoparticles and neuronal implants. The project is carried out by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Helmholtz Research Centre in Karlsruhe. The key elements of the NanoHealth project are:

    — Analysis and summary of current state-of-the-art in both areas, ie nanotechnology and neuronal implants.

    — Development and test of an evidenced-based strategy to analyse and assess the risk of synthetic nanoparticles.

    — Debate on visions and ethical issues in the context of neuronal implants.

    — Discussion of key issues in 2x2 focus groups involving experts and laymen; development of action strategies.

    — Presentation of the results in the form of a workshop open to the wider public.



  The Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) organises conferences on consumer protection and a foresight type study (based on the Delphi method of expert forecasts) into nanomaterials in consumer goods. The BMELV will also conduct a survey into nanomaterials in food.

  BMELV Food Safety Strategies (in English)—Reference to nanotechnology on page 35,templateId=raw,property=pblicationFile.pdf/FoodSafety.pdf

  The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) has been responsible for driving the NanoDialogue initiative—an interdisciplinary dialogue involving all stakeholders including government, industry, research, NGOs, industry associations and the wider public. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) within the remit of the BMU will conduct nanotechnology life cycle analysis and studies into toxicokinetic.

  What lessons can be learned from public engagement activities that have taken place during the development of other new technologies?

  BMU NanoDialogue and NanoCommission English-language website:

  A number of German government agencies—including the Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR), the Federal Institute for Occupational Medicine and Health (BAuA) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) with input from others—have proposed a programme of risk-related research into nanotechnology. This has not yet led to the establishment of dedicated research funding in addition to NanoCare and other risk-related nanotechnology research projects (eg into CNTs).

  English translation of the draft research strategy into nanotechnology environment and health risks:; further information:

4.  Barriers to the development of new nano-products or processes in the food sector?

Poor public acceptance of nanotechnology in food

  BfR study illustrates that only 20 per cent of respondents consulted would buy nanotechnology-enhanced food products. Public acceptance is much better in the area of surface treatment/cleaning (86 per cent would buy such nano-based products), clothes (75 per cent) and skin care (36 per cent). In terms of risk perception, the majority of respondents consider inhalation of nanoparticles the greatest risk (78 per cent). Almost 12 per cent consider oral intake as the biggest risk associated with nanotechnologies.

  Source: Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) representative opinion poll conducted in May 2008; Full report available at

Issues with general safety of nanoparticles

  Different toxicity of nutrients/bioactive substances due to enhanced bioavailability or different distribution within the human body; further research necessary on the impact on physiological substances/matabolites transport in organisms; investigation needed into whether nano-carriers affect epithelial tissue and intestinal function; further research needs to be carried out into the bioavailability of nanoparticles following oral exposition.

  Source: Federal Institute of Risk Assessment; presentation given to the Nanotechnology Forum, Berlin, 10 November 2008

Potential risks associated with synthetically amorphous silica (SiO2)

  There is some in-vitro evidence of impact on cell nuclei, ie accumulation of 40-70 nm nanoparticles in nuclei; negative impact on replication and transcription (but manufacturers doubt that in nano-particles are present). New gel-based production processes for SiO2 may require new safety assessment. This BfR assessment has been endorsed by the Risk Assessment Working Group of Germany's NanoCommission.

Open questions about the risk of nanoparticles in food

  The physical and chemical properties of industrial nanoparticles as potential food additives need to be investigated, especially whether the nanoparticles bind with other food components or whether they move freely through the gastrointestinal tract. Further questions to be investigated are whether nanoparticles as food additives affect the gastrointestinal function or the gastrointestinal microflora. The risks through indirect contamination and migration from packages need to be investigated as well as the status of nano-particle enhanced food compared with novel food.

Methodology for risk assessment

  The BfR recommends that methodologies be developed for a risk assessment of nanoparticles in food, including definitions and distinction between synthetic vs. natural nanoparticles; free vs. matrix-bound nanoparticles. Further generation of toxicological data, especially after oral exposition, is needed.

  Sources: Federal Institute of Risk Assessment; presentation given to the Nanotechnology Forum, Berlin, 10 November 2008; Bericht und Empfehlungen der NanoKommission der deutschen Bundesregierung 2008 (in German only)—

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