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Food industry 'too secretive'

By Jack Davies | Farmers Guardian

THE food industry has been criticised for being ‘too secretive’ by an influential committee in the House of Lords.

Publishing its report into nanotechnologies and food, the Lords Science and Technology Committee called on the food industry to be more transparent about its research into nanotechnologies.

The report claims public trust in food safety and scientific development could be eroded without the ‘key components’ of transparency and honesty.

Nanotechnology is an emerging but increasingly popular technology and involves the use of tiny particles to enhance flavour and to make processed foods healthier by reducing the amount of fat and salt needed in production.

The Committee acknowledged the fact the food industry is right to be concerned about negative public reactions to the technology but said that appearing to be secretive about its research ‘is exactly the type of behaviour which may bring about the public reaction it is trying to avert.’

The report also calls on Government and research councils to fund research into the health risks associated with the technology and calls for a public register of food and food packaging containing nanomaterials.

Committee chairman, Lord Krebs said: “The use of nanotechnologies in food and food packaging is likely to grow significantly over the next decade.

“The technologies have the potential to deliver some significant benefits to consumers but it is important that detailed and thorough research into potential health and safety implications in this area is undertaken now to ensure that any possible risks are identified.

The lesson from the public reaction to GM foods is that secrecy breeds mistrust, and that openness and transparency are crucial to maintain public confidence.”

The Committee also raises concerns about the potential for the illegal importation of food products containing nanomaterials not approved for use in food in the EU.

The report claims out that it is difficult to regulate food products ordered on the internet, and that there is a danger that UK consumers could be exposed to products that have not been approved as safe by the EU.

Responding to the report, Food and Drink Federation director Julian Hunt said he was ‘surprised’ by the House of Lords’ criticism, stressing the technology was still very much in its infancy.

He said: “Understandably, there are many questions and unknowns about the potential future uses of nanotechnologies in our sector, and there is much work still to be done by scientists, governments and regulators, as well as the food and drink industry.”

 

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