Sarah: Having recently renovated my house, I still subscribe to CHOICE magazine (so many white goods, so little time!). This month, CHOICE invites consumers to think about the presence of nanotechnology-enhanced products in their supermarket trolleys. The editors seem adequately worried about the issue to have created a pretty scary image of a crazy-looking scientist promoting ‘nano milk’ and ‘nano pops’ to go with its article, entitled “Small stuff, but nanofood is a big deal’ (CHOICE March 2009, pages 40-42) or online here. Also appearing in the same edition is an article entitled ‘Safer sunscreens’ (CHOICE March 2009, page 7) or online here.
The ‘nutshell’ section of the longer article presents the following 3 points to consider:
- Nanotechnology involves structures as small as molecules, with new and unexpected properties that could make them hazardous to health.
- Nanofoods may already be on supermarket shelves with us knowing – and without violating current Australian food regulations.
- CHOICE wants nanofoods better regulated to ensure they are both safe and properly labelled.
The CHOICE articles seem to have been prompted by some recent activity from Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Australian Office of Nanotechnology (AON). FOE have released a consumer guide listing companies which produce nanotechnology-free sunscreens; they also conducted a poll suggesting that 90% of Australians want safety checks on nanofood additives. The AON found a similar level of concern in their poll, with just under 80% of respondents worried about accurate labelling of nanotechnology in foods.
All in all, CHOICE would like to see the following safeguards enacted in Australia:
- A definition of ‘nano’ incorporated into the Food Standards Code
- Appropriate safety assessments carried out by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
- Specific labelling on all foods containing nanoparticles
- All manufactured nanoparticles be treated as new chemicals and subjected to rigorous new safety testing – even those previously available in bulk form.
In researching this blog, I was most interested to read in the press release from FOE regarding skin protection that “iconic ‘nano-sunscreen’ brands such as Invisible Zinc, previously endorsed by model Megan Gale, have changed their formulations to go ‘nano-free’.” We’ve had lots of discussions at Bridge8 about Invisible Zinc’s claim that their product is ‘micronised, not nano’: the website now contains specific (albeit brief) information addressing this point. Hmmm…..maybe I will give InvisibleZinc a go. I do love a local success story.