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Keywords:

  • food;
  • nanomaterial;
  • nanotechnology;
  • nutrition;
  • safety

Abstract:  Nanotechnology and nanomaterials have tremendous potential to enhance the food supply through novel applications, including nutrient and bioactive absorption and delivery systems; ingredient functionality; improved colors and flavors; microbial, allergen, and contaminant detection and control; and food packaging properties and performance. To determine the current state of knowledge regarding the safety of these potential uses of nanomaterials, an appraisal of the published literature on the safety of food-related nanomaterials was undertaken. A method of assessment of reliability of toxicology studies was developed to conduct this appraisal. The review of the toxicology literature on oral exposure to food-related nanomaterials found that the number of studies is limited. Exposure to nanomaterials in the human food chain may occur not only through intentional uses in food manufacturing, but also via uses in agricultural production and carry over from use in other industries. Although a number of analytical methods are useful in physicochemical characterization of manufactured nanomaterials, new methods may be needed to more fully detect and characterize nanomaterials incorporated into foods and in other media. There is a need for additional toxicology studies of sufficient quality and duration on different types of nanomaterials to further our understanding of the characteristics of nanomaterials that affect safety of oral exposure resulting from use in various food applications.