Australia, New Zealand Take Step Toward Regulating Nanotechnology

Australia and New Zealand have taken a first step toward regulating nanotechnology, reports, with a call for food companies to disclose any products that contain particles invisible to the naked eye. Until now, The Australian reports, there has been no regulation on the use of nanotechnology; however, the national food authority has proposed that food companies should be required to disclose any nano-sized ingredients in their products. According to the report, nano-sized zinc is used as a preservative in food and packaging, and nano-sized clay particles are used to make candy wrappers.

This move follows comments by Science Minister Kim Carr that the Rudd Government intends to establish a regulatory framework for nanotechnology. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for public comment on draft amendments to a document outlining procedures that companies must follow to have products approved for sale. The move would oblige food companies to provide information on the size and shape of any nanoparticles, and how they were incorporated into new products. Products would not, however, require pre-approval safety testing or labeling, and food packaging made with nanomaterials was not covered.

FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann reportedly said that labeling was a policy matter determined by the Health Department, and the department reported to have no plans to make the declaration of nanomaterials mandatory. Comments on the proposed changes should be provided to FSANZ by 6:00 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2008. For more information, visit:

Nanotechnology has found uses in many different industries, personal care included, and its safety has been questioned on many consumer fronts. Whereas in foods where ingestion of nanomaterials obviously could affect an individual's system, in personal care, the primary question is whether nanotechnology in fact penetrates into the human body.

Regardless of whether nanotechnology penetrates, the Personal Care Products Council has released its position statement on nanotechnology, claiming that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s assessment of the safety of nanotechnology "does not suggest an identifiable risk..." and in addition, has concluded that "products with nanotech do not need to be specially labeled because the current science does not support a finding that products with nanotechnology pose a greater safety concern than products without it."

While no major concern has been raised from the industry for nanotechnology in cosmetics as of yet, the concept has created a stir. And while there are obvious differences between ingesting nanotechnology and topically applying it, history has shown that regulations from the foods industry tend to make their way into cosmetics. Whether or not  Australia's move to propose regulating nanotechnology in foods causes a ripple effect in cosmetics has yet to be seen, but it may be something worth watching.

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