Are Untested Nanoparticles Slipping into Our Foods?

Nano-powdered Donut

As You Sow found nanoparticles, which have not been proven safe for human consumption, in kid-friendly foods like doughnuts. Credit: Jacqueline Argote

This spring, As You Sow released Slipping Through the Cracks: An Issue Brief on Nanomaterials in Food. It raised the question of whether potentially harmful nanomaterials (extremely small particles that can move easily through cell walls and into organs, including the brain) are slipping into the food supply without consumer knowledge.

These particles have undergone little or no safety testing.

The brief presented laboratory results showing titanium dioxide nanoparticles found in the white powdered sugar that coats Dunkin’ Donuts Powdered Cake Donuts and Hostess Donettes.

Slipping Through the Cracks also reported results of As You Sow’s survey of 2,500 companies in the food industry, including the largest manufacturers, processors, distributors, packagers, supplement, and fast food companies. The survey yielded only 26 responses and a third of those companies admitted they did not know if nanomaterials are present in their products or supply chains. Only two companies had formal policies on the use of nanomaterials.

“Companies need to address this issue in a proactive and transparent way,” said Danielle Fugere, President of As You Sow and co-author of the report. “Failure to understand if nanomaterials are being used or to understand the harm they can cause to human health and the environment, poses significant risks.”

The report sparked articles in The New York Times and Scientific American, and prompted Mondelez, maker of Trident gum, to announce they are not using nano.

Intent on testing more foods, As You Sow successfully raised funds to test M&M’s and Pop-Tarts through the organization’s first crowdfunding effort. The results of those tests will be announced this summer.