Food Nanotechnology Research Needs

September 17, 2007

Comments of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) on the document, titled "The Prioritization of Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials: An Interim Document for Public Comment".

IFT is a not-for-profit science society representing over 20,000 food scientists and technologists in industry, government and academia worldwide. IFT recognizes the potential for nanoscale science, engineering, and technology to impact the food industry thus supports research and development efforts in area of food nanoscience. IFT efforts are led by the Food Nanoscience Working Group. The goal of the working group is to facilitate the acquisition, generation, and communication of technical and safety developments of nanoscale materials for food applications in order to advance the pursuit of scientific endeavors; to encourage collaboration among organizations with interest in food nanoscience; and to influence regulatory agencies, consumers, and the general public’s decision making regarding nanoscience and food.

IFT commends the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group of the NSET Subcommittee on this specific research needs document. IFT is particularly pleased with the articulation of the research needs to encompasses areas of nanoscience applications relating to food.

The environmental, health, and safety issues related to food fit very well within the scope of the prioritized research needs. For example the inclusion of research needs related to oral exposure (gastrointestinal uptake and distribution of nanomaterials within the human body); identification and development of appropriate in vitro assays/models to predict in vivo human responses to oral exposure; and development of specific risk communication approaches and materials.

Data from food-related research will add to the growing database of information in the nanotechnology field. The information will further understanding of the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of nanomaterials.

Specific comments:
Research category: Instrumentation, Metrology and Analytical Methods IFT agrees with the identified research needs under this category but would like to highly encourage continued support for the establishment of terminologies and definitions of nanomaterials. Development of publicly available inventories of well characterized nanomaterials is also encouraged. Agreement on these issues will boost the on-going work on the research categories identified in this document.

Research category: Nanomaterials and Human Health
IFT suggests the addition of information pertaining to nanoscale food components. These components are derived from materials that are commonly used in food applications (e.g., proteins, lipids, hydrocolloids) as opposed to novel engineered nanomaterials. We feel it important to understand the implications of the reduction in size to nanoscale (i.e. nanosized versus macroscale food components) of nutrients and bioactive components.

General comment:
There is need for a facility that is accessible to small businesses with instrumentation for characterization and assessment of nanomaterials used in consumer products and their safety. Because of the novel nature of nanotechnology very few laboratories have the capacity to handle the materials. Additionally, the current instruments are unaffordable for small entrepreneurs. This need is particularly urgent for the food/nutrition related nanomaterials as there is no facility that is currently equipped to handle food systems. We believe access to such facilities is necessary to encourage and facilitate small businesses to evaluate their materials.

For additional information please contact any one of the following members of the IFT Food Nanoscience Working Group:

Vijay K. Arora, PhD, Kraft Foods Fellow, Kraft Foods R&D Center, Kraft Foods, Inc.
Robert G. Bursey, PhD, Director, Regulatory & Scientific Affairs, Ajinomoto USA, Inc.
John Floros, PhD, President-Elect, IFT; Professor and Head, Department of Food Science, Pennsylvania State University
Brian Guthrie, PhD, Research Fellow, Cargill, Inc.
Bernadene Magnuson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland.
Jochen Weiss, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts.
Rickey Yada, PhD, Professor, Dept of Food Science and Scientific Director, Advanced Foods and Materials Network Department of Food Science, University of Guelph, Canada.
Cory M. Bryant, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, IFT. Betty Bugusu, PhD, Research Scientist, IFT.

Story Tools