Nanotechnology in food: helpful or harmful?

Nanotechnology in food: helpful or harmful?

Nanotechnology in food: helpful or harmful? 500 317 Sheryll Mangahas

Researchers announced recently that they have developed a new screening technique for detecting pyrethroid pesticides in food. This screening technique uses magnetic nanoparticles and, one day, could be incorporated directly in food packaging. While technological advances like this promise greater food safety, scientists are actively studying other applications of nanotechnology in food production where it is far less certain that its long-term effects will be a net positive.

We recently published a whitepaper with Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty that examines the risk of nanotechnology in food production. Nanotechnology is incorporated in many aspects of bringing food to table. Nanoparticles are integrated into livestock feed and plant fertilizers to increase yield. They are also used in food processing to increase food palatability by improving color and taste. Nanotechnology is incorporated in food packaging to preserve food and prevent contamination. And researchers are now investigating whether exposure to nanoparticles in these applications can lead to human disease. Hypotheses of harm include colitis, obesity, colon cancer, food allergies, diabetes, digestive disorders, and immune dysfunction.

Scientists will continue to find ways to incorporate nanotechnology in food production and, simultaneously, will be seeking to understand whether doing so has unintended consequences for human health. Praedicat will be closely monitoring both.

This risk bulletin examines nanotechnology and its applications to the insurance industry, especially to the food and beverage sectors where use of nanotechnology is growing due to its engineered addition into agriculture processes, food ingredients and processing, food packaging and nutritional supplements.