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European Union Regulation of Nanotechnology in the Food Industry
Volume 8, Issue 4

Nicola Barrett

This article examines the regulation of nanotechnology in the European Union food industry and the resulting legal issues that arise for consumers who consume these food products and the workers who manufacture them. Research suggests that nanomaterials may have adverse effects to human health which raises questions about the civil liability of manufacturers who supply consumers with defective products that cause injury to the consumer. It could prove difficult for a consumer to prove that a specific nanomaterial caused their injury due to their minute size and knowledge deficit concerning how nanomaterials interact with the body. The regulatory challenge therefore is to maximize the numerous benefits of this emergent industry while minimizing the chance of harm or injury being caused by such products. Significant issues include, determining how many products using nanotechnologies are on the market, identifying the risks that result from consuming nanomaterials contained in food products, establishing whether such products are safe for human consumption, setting out the scope of what is to be regulated, i.e. defining what is meant by nanotechnology, and keeping pace with commercial developments. Current European Union legislation is applicable to some, but not all, of the potential risks associated with nanotechnologies. However, piecemeal legislation is not ideal, thus nano-specific legislation which effectively addresses consumer needs is required. Consumer acceptance and trust in nano-enabled products is key to successful commercialization in the food sector. Without such acceptance, the industry may not succeed just as genetically modified food products failed to overcome consumer skepticism. Thus regulators and food manufacturers must engage in consumer dialogue and be seen to be addressing consumer reservations in a transparent fashion. A means of providing such transparency is the adoption of a ‘nano’ labeling mark.

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