The committee voted for a moratorium on foods produced using nanotechnology until the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a specific risk assessment strategy in place for nano foods. It also rejected the Commission’s proposed definition of such foods as those containing more than 50% nanoparticles, setting a 10% threshold instead.
Welcoming the move, Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes said: “We cannot push blindly ahead with this technology without properly assessing the risks for human health."
Nanomaterials currently do not have any special regulation under EU law, while the range of potential uses for nanotech in foods is expanding rapidly. Among many others, these include improving the bioavailability of nutrients, flavour enhancement, removal of pathogens and undesirable chemicals, and in packaging to detect foodborne pathogens or spoilage.
At the moment, regulators rely instead on a range of other relevant legislation designed principally with applications other than nanotechnology in mind.
Cloned animals and safe history of use
The committee also voted to label meat and milk from cloned animals until specific legislation on such products is passed, and called for EFSA guidance on the data needed to prove history of safe use for traditional food imported from non-EU countries.
Novel foods are defined as those that do not have a significant history of consumption in the EU prior to 1997. However, history of safe use in non-EU countries has been an important factor to judge food safety.
Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at the European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, said: “The mere fact a food such as insects has been consumed in a country for many years should not lead to an assumption on its safety. We are glad EFSA’s help is being sought to determine histories of safe use of foodstuffs traditionally eaten outside the EU.”
The organisation also backed MEPs decision on nanotech as well as its position on labelling food from cloned animals.
“Our concerns have been reflected by MEPs who are calling on the Commission to go back to the drawing board. We expect a revamped cloning proposal, this time in line with consumers’ expectations,” she said.