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September 20th, 2010
Nano definition is a legal minefield, warn scientists
Agreeing on a legal definition of nanomaterials that satisfies food manufacturers, regulators, enforcement bodies and consumers will be hugely challenging, according to experts gathered at a nanotechnology workshop in Leatherhead last week.
Currently, the only legal definition for nanomaterials in the EU is enshrined in the Cosmetics Regulation (EC 1223/2009), which defines nanomaterials (for labelling purposes) as "insoluble or biopersistent and intentionally manufactured… with one or more external dimensions or an internal structure on the scale of 1-100-nanometres".
A second definition - which focuses on "intentionally-produced materials in the order of 100-nanometres or less" - is included in the latest draft of the revised Novel Food Regulation, which also calls for nanomaterials to be labelled on food packaging, something many manufacturers oppose.
A third definition that appears to focus more on size than functionality is being developed by the European Commission's independent Scientific Committee for Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks.
However, all of the above definitions are problematic, according to scientists and legal experts at last week's workshop, which was organised by Leatherhead Food Research, NanoCentral and the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network.
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