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Nano Particles in Food?

May 23, 2014

I was happily driving into work today while listening to the very grown up and most informative ABC radio 702 when lo and behold a guy from Friends of the Earth came on and scared the life out of me. Well, actually he didn’t but the two nice looking police men on motor bikes did, especially when with my attention temporarily distracted I had to apply the brakes quick smart to avoid crashing into the next car. I always did like that 70’s police show……. Chips???

Anyway I digress.

The happy chappy from Friends of the Earth (isn’t that a nice name ‘Friends’ of the Earth, so warm and fuzzy) had a bee in his bonnet about nanoparticles. Being a bit science-nerdy my ears pricked up and I diverted every bit of extra attention I had to his voice. I quickly wished I’d never bothered.

I’ve come across the Friends of the Earth ‘I hate nano’ argument before with sunscreens and while I do appreciate that nano materials do warrant far more attention and scrutiny than they may be getting I didn’t think much to the tact they took with sunscreens and this food focus seems to be equally rubbish in my opinion.

Basically the premise is that food companies are lacing our convenience and pre-made delicacies with un-tested nanoparticles. Of particular interest is Titanium Dioxide that can be found in lots of foods where (and I quote) ‘it is used as a whitener and brightener’.


I wondered for a moment if they had ever seen a nanoparticle? Yes I know they are tiny but do they know that the reason that nano titanium is so interesting in sunscreens is because when you make the pigment small it stops being white on the skin? In fact it turns INVISIBLE to the naked eye which is rather nice as not many people love the white-as-a-ghost look.

So I then wondered why foodies would be using a nano grade?

Also knowing the cost of the nano vs regular I doubted the wisdom in this choice. Financially why would you use a tiny, invisible and expensive titanium dioxide to whiten and brighten your product when a cheap, bulky, white and bright food grade titanium dioxide would do the same job?

Answers on a postcard please!

While I have never covered the food industry as a sales rep or product manager directly I have worked very closely with colleagues that did and still do and I did know that Titanium Dioxide is added to many foods including one of my all time favourite food stuffs – cheese. However, while I do have more than a little practical understanding of the use of said ingredient in food I haven’t taken it upon myself to call around and ask if nano titanium is the new black (or ultra bright white) in terms of food colourant. Frankly I’ve just been too busy.

So, I’m not saying that the Friends of the Earth piece is complete rubbish (even though at the beginning I did say that) but I am skeptical about their press release because it focuses on something that on the face of it doesn’t make any sense – not financially, chemically or practically.

That said if I am wrong I’ll gladly eat my hat.

My cheese hat.

You know, the one made from delicious might-contain-nano cheese.


Amanda x

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