One such in the U.S.’s largely unregulated, group of food additives are nanoparticles, which are rapidly gaining favor in the food industry. Tests by the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg and the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office in Switzerland found nanosized titanium dioxide, silicon oxide and talc in 27% of the food products tested.1
“This suite of ingredients, engineered to almost atomic scale, may have unintended effects on cells and organs,2 particularly the digestive tract.3
There are also indications that nanoparticles may get into the bloodstream4 and accumulate5 elsewhere in the body. They have been linked to inflammation,6 liver and kidney damage7 and even heart8 and brain damage,9” The Guardian reports in a recent article.10
Nanoparticles — A hidden health hazard in processed food?
Nanoparticles have gained popularity in the food industry for their ability to “improve” the texture, appearance and flavor of food. Silicon dioxide, for example, is added to many spices and salts as an anticaking agent, meaning it allows the spices to flow easier and not clump together.
Titanium dioxide (labeled E171 in the EU), is a whitening agent used in a wide variety of products, from chocolate and chewing gum to baked goods, milk powders and mayonnaise. However, while titanium dioxide has long been considered inert, concerns about nanosized titanium dioxide have been raised for years.11
According to The Guardian,12 “the tiny metal additive has … been shown to accumulate in liver, spleen, kidney and lung tissues in rats when ingested and to damage the liver and heart muscle.”
Christine Ogilvie Hendren, executive director of the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology at Duke University, told The Guardian that she washes “all my foods like crazy,”13 in an effort to remove surface nanoparticles.
Christine K. Payne, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, Duke University, added “There might be concerns for toddlers when you have a small body mass that you’re eating a lot of these … products.”