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Food industry not prepared to implement applications of nanotechnology.

The markets for foods that encompass some sort of nanotechnology nanotechnology: see micromechanics.

Manipulation of atoms, molecules, and materials to form structures on the scale of nanometres (billionths of a metre).
 are forecast to triple over the next four years and to exceed $20 billion by 2010. In fact, a recent study by the international business consulting company Noun 1. consulting company - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
consulting firm

business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a
 Cientifica found over 150 nanotechnology applications With nanotechnology, a large set of materials and improved products rely on a change in the physical properties when the feature sizes are shrunk. Nanoparticles for example take advantage of their dramatically increased surface area to volume ratio. Their optical properties, e.g.  in the food industry at present, with some of the world's biggest companies--like Altria, Nestle, Kraft, Heinz and Unilever--involved in nanotechnology research and development.

If industry observers are right, there are hundreds of new food and agriculture products under development, many of which could be on the market in as little as two years. But, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 a new report on nanotechnology, it does not appear that governments, industry, producers or trade groups are ready for their arrival.

The report charges that there is no research strategy for addressing possible human health or environmental risks in place and that the public is at best vaguely aware of what the word nanotechnology even means, much less how it might be involved with growing and producing food or other agricultural products. Additionally, say the authors, "There is no evidence that government oversight
For Oversight in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Oversight.

Oversight may refer to:
  • Government regulation — The role of an official authority in regulating a separate authority.
 bodies are ready to conduct the kind of thorough reviews that these exciting but untested innovations demand."

So far, according to the report, companies developing nanotechnology applications have taken few steps to educate consumers about the benefits or potential risks of nanotechnology. This is despite past consumer sensitivities to new technology in food and despite the fact that to date, more than a dozen known nanotechnology consumer food products are on the market, with the promise of many more to come.

At the federal level, the report notes a lack of human health, environmental and lifecycle risk research; little reliable information or projections regarding where or how nanotechnology is being commercialized in the food and farm sectors; and no domestic or international oversight strategy.

"The number of nanotechnology food products currently being sold appears to be relatively small," said David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was established in 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project is intended to address the social, political, and public safety aspects of nanotechnology. , which supported the study. "But with millions of dollars being spent globally by both government and industry to apply nanotechnologies in areas such as food processing Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food for consumption by humans or animals. The food processing industry utilises these processes. , food safety and packaging, and agricultural production, it is the right time to start asking a number of related questions: What nano-engineered food products will appear on the market over the next year or two? What are the potential benefits and risks? Who will be affected? And how can consumers become engaged early on?"

Nanotechnology involves the control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. A nanometer One billionth of a meter. Nanometers are used to measure the wavelengths of light. See angstrom and metric system.  is one-billionth of a meter. For comparison purposes, one inch equals 25 million nanometers. A nanometer-sized particle particle /par·ti·cle/ (pahr´ti-k'l) a tiny mass of material.

Dane particle  an intact hepatitis B viral particle.
 also is smaller than a living cell and can be seen only with the most powerful microscopes available today. At the nanoscale At nanometer size. Any device only a few nanometers in size is nanoscale. See nanotechnology and nanometer. , the physical, chemical and biological properties of materials differ in fundamental and valuable ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules or bulk matter. Nanotechnology R&D is directed toward understanding and creating improved materials, devices and systems that exploit these new properties.

Nanotechnology also is being used to create better packaging and healthier foods. For example, researchers are working on creating food packages embedded Inserted into. See embedded system.  with tiny materials specifically designed to alert consumers that a product is no longer safe to eat. Food scientists also are creating nanomaterials whose small size gives the ability to deliver powerful nutrients to human cells where they previously could not reach. In addition, scientists believe nanomaterials can be designed to block certain substances in food, such as harmful cholesterol or food allergens, from reaching certain parts of the body.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Sep 11, 2006
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