Skip navigation

New study raises further questions about the safety of nano-ingredients in food

New_study_raises_further_questions_about_the_safety_of_nano-ingredients_in_food.jpgFriends of the Earth has renewed its calls for a recall of food products containing nanomaterials following the release of a new studyi which found that titanium dioxide (TiO2) in food is absorbed into the human bloodstream. The calls follow the release of independent testing results last week which found potentially harmful nanoparticles of titanium TiO2 and silica (SiO2) in a range of food products including M&Ms, Nestlé Coffee Mate Creamer, Old El Paso Taco Mix and Woolworths Homebrand White Sauce.

The study’s authors have suggested that nanoparticles of TiO2 may be more likely to cross the intestinal wall than larger particles and have called for further work to quantify human exposure to TiO2.

Jeremy Tager from Friends of the Earth’s Emerging Tech Project said “for over two years, our food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has insisted that foods containing nanoparticles are not sold here on the basis that no companies have applied for approval. Now that we’ve proven nanoparticles are being used in food FSANZ is simply claiming they are safe despite there being no evidence to support this statement.”

FSANZ is also refusing to now require applications for approval despite having promised pre-market safety testing and an approval process for novel foods such as these.”

We now know that TiO2 can get into our bloodstream but we don’t even know where it goes. We can, however, infer the potential harm based on animal studies, which have clearly shown that TiOnanoparticles can migrate through systemic circulation to different organs, accumulate there, and cause serious damage. Nano TiOis highly mobile in the body and has been detected in the blood, liver, spleen, kidney, lung, heart, and brain of animals and has been found to cause oxidative stress, inflammatory reactions, DNA damage, and cell death.”ii

People consume literally trillionsiii of food additive particles a day. Children between the age of 2 and 4 have been foundiv v to have the highest exposure levels of TiO2because of its use in lollies.”

The fact that FSANZ has the gall to say that nano TiO2 is safe when there are so few studies looking at human exposure to TiOand its impacts highlights how deeply captured our regulator actually is.”

The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, is currently reviewing the safety of TiO2 - including the nano form - because of concerns it may be harmful to the environment and human health.”vi

Concerns have also been raised about the safety of nano silica. This year the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) found evidence that nano silica can damage DNA  and concluded that there is inadequate data to conclude that nano silica is safe.  Several recent studies have shown that nano silica can cause liver toxicity.

Friends of the Earth Australia is calling for recall of all food products containing nanomaterials and an immediate moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in food, pending full safety assessments,” concluded Mr Tager.

Media contact: Jeremy Tager: (20) 6679 5529; 0400 376 974


i Pele et al. (2015) Pharmaceutical/food grade titanium dioxide particles are absorbed into the bloodstream of human volunteers Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 12:26

ii LUBW (Landesanstalt für Umwelt, Messungen und Naturschutz Baden-Württemberg) (2010) Nanomaterialien: Toxikologie/Ökotoxikologie,, E. & Kuricova, M. (2015). Titanium Dioxide Particles: some aspects of toxicity/focus on development. Endocrine Regulations, 49:97-112.

iii Lomer, M.C.E. et al. (2002) Fine and ultrafine particles of the diet: influence on the mucosal immune response and association with Crohn’s disease, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 61:123–130

iv Weir, A. et al. (2012) Titanium dioxide nanoparticles in food and personal care products. Environmental Science and Technology 46:2242-2250.

v For a more complete overview of the impacts of nano TiO2 in the peer reviewed literature please see Rollerova, E. and Kuricova, M. (2015). Titanium Dioxide Particles: some aspects of toxicity/focus on development. Endocrine Regulations. Vol 49, 97-112, particularly table 1, p.101 and table 2, p.104

vi ECHA (2013) Justification document for the selection of a CoRAP substance – Titanium Dioxide

Continue Reading

Read More