August 23, 2013
New Technique Detects Toxic Nanoparticles In Fresh Produce, Other Foods Products
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industrial uses has increased over the last few years.
Silver nanoparticles, for example, are used by farmers as a pesticide because of their capability to suppress the growth of harmful organisms. A growing concern among scientists is that these particles could pose a potential health risk to both humans and the environment.
A new study from the University of Missouri, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, describes a reliable new technique for detecting silver nanoparticles in fresh produce and other food products.
"More than 1,000 products on the market are nanotechnology-based products," said Mengshi Lin, associate professor of food science in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "This is a concern because we do not know the toxicity of the nanoparticles. Our goal is to detect, identify and quantify these nanoparticles in food and food products and study their toxicity as soon as possible."
Lin worked with MU scientists Azlin Mustapha and Bongkosh Vardhanabhuti to study the residue and penetration of silver nanoparticles on pear skin. The team first immersed the pears in a silver nanoparticle solution, and then rinsed the fruit repeatedly. Four days after immersion and rinsing, the results showed that silver nanoparticles were still attached to the skin. The team found that smaller particles were able to penetrate the skin and reach the pear pulp.
"The penetration of silver nanoparticles is dangerous to consumers because they have the ability to relocate in the human body after digestion," Lin said. "Therefore, smaller nanoparticles may be more harmful to consumers than larger counterparts."
When nanoparticles are ingested, they pass into the blood and lymph system, circulate throughout the body and reach potentially sensitive sites – the spleen, brain, liver and heart.
The food industry has been revolutionized by other nanoparticles that enhance flavors, improve supplement delivery, keep food fresh longer and brighten the colors of food. Scientists worry, however, that the use of silver nanoparticles could harm the human body.
"This study provides a promising approach for detecting the contamination of silver nanoparticles in food crops or other agricultural products," Lin said.
The FDA last year released guidelines meant to address the use of nanotechnology in both foods and cosmetics.
In the food draft guidance, the agency said that the use of nanotechnology in the manufacturing process (including packaging) could impact the core identity, the safe consumption levels, and the regulatory status of the product, and ultimately could result in a regulatory submission to the FDA.
Image Below: Following a new study at the University of Missouri, a reliable method of testing foods for the harmful particles has been found that might be implemented in the future. Credit: University of Missouri