Safety concerns for nanomaterials in food packaging

The safety of food packaging containing nanomaterials is being called into question, with Friends of the Earth calling for more stringent regulations.

Nanomaterials are used in packaging to extend the shelf life of food, reduce microbes, and act as indicators for when food goes bad, however Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) believes there are currently no products in the market boasting this sort of packaging.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Jeremy Tager, believes nanomaterials used in packaging can leach into food and potentially harm consumers, the SMH reports, and he’s calling for a more proactive approach to packaging regulation in Australia.

"There is a profound anti-regulatory approach. In Australia, we don't think about regulation until somebody starts falling over and dying, and that's unacceptable in terms of food safety,” he said.

"We want FSANZ to take a more proactive role in regulating nanomaterials in packaging and food, which is to operate on the basis that food must be assured safe before it's put on the market. That's the basic start."

Tager referred to a study which found that 80 percent of food and packaging companies surveyed by FSANZ said packaging rules were "inadequate", "minimalistic at best" and "largely irrelevant", and that the food and beverage manufacturing industry the food industry acknowledged the "lack of legislative requirements regarding the safety of unknown, new and emerging packaging materials.”

FSANZ said it is aware of concerns about chemical migration and has launched a review of existing legislation, while also monitoring and conducting its own research into nanomaterials.