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EFSA publishes draft guidance on nano risk assessment

By Guy Montague-Jones , 14-Jan-2011

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published draft guidance giving more specific risk assessment information regarding the use of nanotechnology in food.

In the newly published guidance document, EFSA advocates the use of classical risk assessment practices in this emerging area of food science. This means hazard identification and hazard characterisation followed by exposure assessment and risk characterisation.

EFSA scientific officer David Carlander told FoodProductionDaily.com that the new document gives practical guidance for carrying out risk assessment on the use of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) in any food application.

It outlines, for example, how to carry out physico-chemical characterisations of nanomaterials in food and how to conduct an exposure assessment.

“Practical guidance”

Explaining where the guidance fits into existing EFSA work on nanotechnology, Professor Vittorio Silano, chair of EFSA’s Scientific Committee said: “We are now in the position to provide practical guidance on the risk assessment process.

“This is the first time that risk assessment guidance on nanotechnologies related to the food chain has been developed, making this public consultation very important to EFSA.”

The new document builds on an opinion published in 2009 in which EFSA advocated a case-by- case approach on risk assessment of nanomaterials in food.

At the time, EFSA expressed concern about the high degree of uncertainty caused by gaps in the data and advocated the development of specific methods to detect, characterise and quantify ENMs in food contact materials.

Dealing with uncertainties

This is what the new guidance document attempts to do. Regarding the problem of data gaps, EFSA said the draft guidance “recognises several uncertainties related to test methodologies and the availability of data and makes recommendations about how risk assessments should reflect such uncertainties.”

Carlander said significant progress has been made over the past five years to improve the body of research on nanotechnology and remove uncertainties. He said: “A lot has been done to close data gaps but that is not to say that all gaps have been closed.”

EFSA has launched a public consultation on the draft document that will remain open until 25 February 2011. A final guidance document will be prepared once comments have been considered and EFSA has met with representatives of EU member states to discuss the draft.

To read the draft guidance document, please click here.

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