Health

You're already eating Nanoparticles with your food

You're already eating Nanoparticles with your food

The use of nanoparticles in food is commonplace – so why haven’t the health benefits been assessed?

Very few people are aware of the use of nanotechnology on a mass scale within the food industry. This practice currently operates with practically no oversight or meaningful regulation despite the fact that it may prove to be harmful to health. Now a growing consensus is forming that this issue needs to be addressed properly, starting with far greater transparency from the large food companies and their use of this technology.

Nanotechnology basically involves the engineering of particle at the nano scale in order to produce tiny particles known as nanoparticles. Nanoparticles occur in nature and are also engineered in laboratories for various purposes. The food industry has been involved in creating nanoparticles to add to food in order to deliver nutrients effectively, preserving food for longer, to act as a thickening agent or for food coloring purposes.

What is concerning about all of this, according to the British corporate accountability organization As You Sow, is that the actual science behind nanotechnology is still not properly understood even by experts in the field. A statement was As You Sow points out that "materials reduced to the nanoscale either through engineered or natural processes can suddenly show very different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications such as alterations in color, electrical conductance, or permeability." Naturally, this issue raises questions about how the widespread use of nanoparticles in mass produced food products could come to impact public health.

According to Britta Belli, nanoparticles which are ingested can be absorbed through the small nodules in the intestinal tissue known as Peyer’s Plaques which are part of the body’s natural immune defense system. They can also enter the digestive system and infiltrate the bloodstream where it is possible that they could cause damage. Belli writes that the potential impact of this is still unknown because there is very little research available on the topic. This is precisely the problem. Nanoparticles in processed foods have simply not been subject to the kind of rigorous and thorough examination that the public expects when it comes to their food.

Unfortunately, given the attitude of the food giants towards the potential side effects of this technology the full impact nanotechnology is having on public health may not be widely known about until it is too late.

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