EFSA consults industry on food and feed nanotechnology guidance

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/cybrain
© GettyImages/cybrain

Related tags: Feed additives, Nanotechnology

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has opened a public consultation on its draft guidance for the risk assessment of nanoscience and nanotechnology applications in the food and feed chain.

The publication covers the relevant areas within EFSA’s remit, such as novel foods, food contact materials, food and feed additives, and pesticides.

The Authority said the new document​, which was developed by its Scientific Committee, takes account of the scientific developments that have taken place since publication of its previous guidance in 2011, particularly studies that offer new insights into exposure assessment and hazard characterization of nanomaterials.

It also considers nano-specific considerations relating to in vivo ​and in vitro​ toxicological studies. EFSA said the guidance outlines a tiered framework for toxicological testing, and also proposes ways to carry out risk characterization and uncertainty analysis.

The EU risk assessor said it is taking comments on the draft guidance until 4 March 2018.

The guidance document can be read here​.

Background

In 2014, EFSA published a report that included an evaluation and inventory of current and future nanotechnology applications in the feed, food and agri-sector along with a review of global regulation, which it said, would underpin its future risk assessment work in the nano domain.

The report found there were a limited number of nanomaterials in development for feed additives, but projects with some momentum behind them include one looking to replace antibiotics with nano-sized substitutes.

That review, compiled by experts from Wageningen University (WUR) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the EU Commission, noted other feed focused R&D in the nano arena such as projects looking at products that could absorb bacteria and toxins, and others aiming to improve feed digestibility.

“A comparison between current and future applications indicates a trend from inorganic materials like silver towards organic materials like nano-encapsulates and nano-composites.

“The results also indicate that applications in novel foods, feed additives, biocides and pesticides are currently mostly at a developmental stage,”​ said the reviewers, led by Peter Ruud from WUR.

‘Nanoparticles not well characterized'

Despite the growing body of research in this area, nanoparticles remain underutilised, are not well characterized, and are not well understood as poultry feed additives, according to Australian researchers writing in the journal Trends in Food Science and Technology​ ​in late 2016.

The review team, whose members work in several universities and research institutes across Australia, said nanoparticles (NPs) can enable direct transportation of compounds to targeted organs or systems while avoiding the fast degradability often seen with antibiotics, and can encourage multiple health benefits.

“NPs have been used in poultry feed to decrease numbers of harmful bacteria in the chicken microbiota ... and have been shown to stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria (Mahmoud 2012)) and, hence, can, potentially, be used to improve growth and performance,” ​they noted. 

They noted that silver, currently the most common nanoparticle investigated for use in chicken feed, has been shown to improve the microbiota of chickens: “However, the positive results are tempered by the finding that silver nanoparticles have relatively high toxicity in birds. The question therefore arises as to whether other nanoparticle forms of essential metals and natural compounds can be safely delivered to provide positive impacts on health and productivity without the toxic side effects that can be seen with silver nanoparticles,” ​cautioned the authors. 

The reviewers called for more studies evaluating the influence of NPs on intestinal microbiota of chickens – this would allow the scientific get a deeper understanding of their role on beneficial gut microbes and metabolites production.

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