Nanotechnologies and food – the UK government responds to the House of Lords

Last week the UK government issued its response to a report on nanotechnologies and food from the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, which was published on 8 January this year.

The headlines arising from this report concentrated on a perceived lack of openness from the food industry (see for example, the BBC’s headline Food industry ‘too secretive’ over nanotechnology), and it’s this aspect that the consumer group Which? concentrates on in its reaction to the response – Government ignores call for openness about nano food. This refers to House of Lords recommendation 10, which calls for the establishment by the Food Standards Agency of a mandatory, but confidential, database of those nanomaterials being researched by the food industry. The government has rejected the proposal that this should be mandatory, on the grounds that this would drive research away from the UK. However, the government has accepted the recommendation (26) that the FSA maintains a publicly accessible list of food and food packaging products that contain nanomaterials. This will include, as recommended, all materials that have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority, but the FSA will explore including other materials that might be considered to have nanoscale elements, to allow for the uncertainties of definition of nanomaterials in the food context. Where their Lordships and the government agree (and disagree with Which?) is in rejecting the idea of compulsory labelling of nanomaterials on packaging.

The House of Lords report, together with all the written and oral evidence submitted to the inquiry, can be downloaded from here. For my own written evidence, see here – I mentioned my oral evidence in this blog post from last year.