The best example of nano technology being used in food packaging is the introduction of minute silver particles into the packaging. Silver is known to have antibacterial properties, so this makes the packaging containing it, antibacterial as well. This is a wonderful introduction to assist in the prevention of food poisoning.
Nano means extremely small. So the silver particles that are being impregnated into the packaging are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen by the eye.
Nano particles are also used commonly now in sunscreens, as they assist with protecting the skin from sun exposure.
So nano materials have some wonderful properties and are therefore becoming much more commonly used in packaging and other products.
The problem is that these particles can migrate into the food the packaging contains and therefore enter the body. It is really not known at this stage wheat potential health impacts this may have. The amount entering the food is very small, and there is no evidence to date that there is any harm but the long term effects and impact are yet to be determined.
This has organisations like Friends of the Earth very concerned about the fact that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has not included nano containing food packaging in it’s current investigation of the safety of food packaging. It believes that the packaging should be banned until the safety has been determined.
FSANZ says that because the risks of such packaging have not yet been defined a separate investigation may be required.
So is nano containing food packaging a good thing or bad?
The answer, like with GM and irradiation, is not a simple one. There are incredible benefits and advantages to this technology as well as significant cost savings and improved environmental impacts. However, there is no real understanding of the long term health impacts that it may have.
The same was probably said about electricity or even many of the other developments that we now take for granted after many many years of using them.
It seems that we have a situation where once again technology has jumped way ahead of the law and even of the studies of long term implications, and we simply have to wait until they catch up.
The real question is – do we sit around waiting for the law to catch up and not use new technology, or should we keep moving into the future – and if so, how and under what controls?
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.