VThe Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

The regulation of food products by the CFSAN is one of the largest roles played by the FDA. Approximately 80 percent of all food consumed in the United States falls under the regulatory authority of the CFSAN, the exceptions being meat, poultry, and egg products, which are instead regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As in other areas, the potential uses of nanotechnology in food products is in certain respects only limited by the imagination of researchers working in the field. What is especially troubling to much of the public is that proposals for the use of nanotechnology with food products are not limited to incidental items such as packaging or to processing methodologies, but are proposed to be included as part of the food to be ingested. For instance, they may be incorporated as food colorings, preservatives, and other additives that arguably improve the food to be consumed by making it more palatable, more resistant to spoilage or infection, and so on. And even when used on incidental products, like when antimicrobial nanotech films are coated on packaging, there remains a certain likelihood of ingestion.

Growth in the incorporation of nanotechnology in the food industry is accelerating. At the moment, only some $500 million (out of a total $3 trillion global food market) are directed to nanotechnology, but that number is expected to grow by more than a factor of ten within the next five years. The authority of the CFSAN to regulate the use of nanotechnology in the food industry is derived from generally more statutes than is the case for the other centers of the FDA, reflecting the high level of importance placed on ensuring the safety of the food supply in the United States. Some of the statutes on which the CFSAN may draw for regulatory authority of course include the FDCA, but also include the Federal Food and Drugs Act, the Federal Import Milk Act, the Public Health Service Act, the Infant Formula Act, and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, in addition to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. An interesting question (see the first item in the next Discussion section) relates to whether it is appropriate to require labels identifying foods that contain nanoparticles.

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