Nano food definition rightly back to square one

After today’s vote by the whole European Parliament , the Commission’s definition of nanomaterial in food should be sent back to the drawing board. BEUC applauded the fact that a large majority of MEPs thwarted the ill-inspired definition.

The Commission’s proposed updated definition raises eyebrows on three grounds:

  • The new EU food labelling rules will make it compulsory to label as ‘nano’ all food ingredients present in the form of nanomaterials. However the Commission is proposing that food additives that were already on sale before 2011 should be exempt from such labelling. This provision thus denies consumers their right to make informed choices;
  • The proposal that only those nano ingredients produced to have a specific function in the food should be labelled offers a leeway for food makers. They could indeed pretend their nano products are meant to act the same way in the food as their non-nano counterparts, which would place the burden of proof  on food control bodies;
  • The 50% nano-particles threshold for an ingredient to qualify as ‘nano’ is much too high. This disregards the European Food Safety Authority's advice to the Commission of a 10% threshold in light of ongoing uncertainty as regards nano safety.

Monique Goyens, Director of the European Consumer Organisation, commented:

“The Parliament has given heed to consumers’ uncertainty of nano food’s risks and benefits. The Commission should make sure its definition does not contradict the spirit of the new food labelling rules that will be effective at the end of this year. Consumer choice should not be sacrificed for the sake of food makers’ ease of doing business.

“We urge  the Commission to take the Parliament’s call into account and come up with a new definition which stands this time on the side of consumers’ right to know what is in their food.”

Further information:
See our statement on the ENVI committee vote in February.
See our letter to the Members of the European Parliament ahead of the plenary vote