Nanotechnology shows great potential for producing food with higher quality and better taste through including new additives, improving nutrient delivery, and using better packaging. However, lack of investigations on safety issues of nanofood has resulted in public fears. How to characterize engineered nanomaterials in food and assess the toxicity and health impact of nanofood remains a big challenge. Herein, a facile and highly reliable separation method of TiO2 particles from food products (focusing on sugar-coated chewing gum) is reported, and the first comprehensive characterization study on food nanoparticles by multiple qualitative and quantitative methods is provided. The detailed information on nanoparticles in gum includes chemical composition, morphology, size distribution, crystalline phase, particle and mass concentration, surface charge, and aggregation state. Surprisingly, the results show that the number of food products containing nano-TiO2 (<200 nm) is much larger than known, and consumers have already often been exposed to engineered nanoparticles in daily life. Over 93% of TiO2 in gum is nano-TiO2, and it is unexpectedly easy to come out and be swallowed by a person who chews gum. Preliminary cytotoxicity assays show that the gum nano-TiO2 particles are relatively safe for gastrointestinal cells within 24 h even at a concentration of 200 μg mL−1. This comprehensive study demonstrates accurate physicochemical property, exposure, and cytotoxicity information on engineered nanoparticles in food, which is a prerequisite for the successful safety assessment of nanofood products.
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