Nanotechnology Law Report

Naturally produced nanoparticles and food

The possible presence of  nanoparticles in food has, for the last few years, been a controversial topic, focusing usually on the possible toxic effects of manufactured carbon nanoparticles (MCNs)  on human health. A recently published article by members of the Departments of Chemistry and Biotechnology at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, "Presence of Amorphous Carbon Nanoparticles in Food Caramels", looked at a different aspect of the contoversy, naturally produced carbon nanoparticles. As the authors point out, naturally produced carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) have possibly been present in various types of food for thousands of years and offer the possibility of being used as vehicles for the delivery of medications within the human body.

In their study, Prof. Arun Chattopadhyay and colleagues tested "regular carbohydrate based food caramels, such as bread, jaggery, corn flakes, and biscuits . . . . where the preparation of food maily involves heating the starting ingredients in the absence of water, leading to the formation of caramels", for the presence of CNPs, which were detected. The CNPs were not of a uniform size, as would be expected with  MCNs but were of various sizes, "indicating temperature dependent formation". More importantly

These caramels containing CNPs have been consumed by human beings with no know toxicity and thus it can be considered to have no or minimum risk on human health and be used as a safe nanomaterial.

All of these are foods that, as the authors note, "have been consumed by humans for centuries, and thus they can be considered as safe" for use in "various biological applications", including, as mentioned above, the delivery of medications to specific sites within the human body, such as tumors,

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