Nanoparticles are materials that are microscopic—significantly smaller than a red blood cell; and tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. These particles can help deliver nutrients, ensure longer freshness of food, act as thickening agents or enhance taste or flavor. The problem is, scientists are still determining the health and environmental impact of these tiny particles, even as industry is forging ahead.
“At the moment, there is not much information available on the topic of ingested nanoparticles and human health,” says Birgit Gaiser, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Heriot-Watt University in the UK. “Some nanoparticles are present in the human diet, for example titanium dioxide in food products and cosmetics, and silver, which is sold as a nutritional supplement. There is evidence that a small percentage of these particles, or particle components like silver ions which can be released in stomach acid, can move on from the intestinal tract into the blood, and reach other organs. This is why we believe it is important to assess the risk of even small amounts of particles in the human body and ensure that the types of particles present in the human diet and cosmetics, as well as the amounts ingested, can be considered safe.” The FDA has been slow to catch up. In fact, the agency doesn’t even track which foods contain nanoparticles. Read more >>