Nano technology and food safety

Nanotechnology enables us to control substances on a molecular level and allows us to create materials with new characteristics. These new materials are commonly referred to as nanoparticles. As a comparison, the average hair has a cross section of approximately one hundred thousand nanometers, much larger than a nanoparticle. The new characteristic of nanoparticles renders them very attractive for novel applications, also in food and feed production.

Risks of nanoparticles

Due to their small size, nanoparticles have new characteristics or different physiochemical properties compared to normal chemicals. That’s what makes nanoparticles so attractive from a technological point of view. At the same time, these new properties trigger safety concerns. The small size induced physiochemical properties lead to a different, more reactive, behavior of nanoparticles in humans and animals. Wageningen Food Safety Research also investigates the potential hazards of nanoparticles: this is nanotoxicology.

Nanotoxicology and food safety

Wageningen Food Safety Research participates in research into the hazards of food-related uses of nanoparticles through:

  • Development of in vitro models that simulate the human digestive tract. This is done to study the fate of nanoparticles after ingestion;
  • Development of in vitro models for the gut epithelium to study the uptake and translocation of nanoparticles. This is done by simple mono, and co-culture cell models, but also in advanced gut-on-a-chip microfluidic models;
  • Potential effects are studied using differential gene expression, life cell imaging and advanced molecular biology tools;
  • We use advance analytical chemistry to characterize the nanoparticles we evaluate in our models.

Due to Wageningen Food Safety Research’s unique combination of analytical expertise in chemistry, its strong position in toxicology and a solid instrumental infrastructure we are able to address complex research questions regarding safety of nanomaterials.

Detection of nanoparticles and food safety

Wageningen Food Safety Research develops and validates methods for the analysis of nanoparticles in food, feed and biological matrices:

  • methods for metal and metal oxide nanoparticles based on single particle ICP-MS, and hydrid methods by combinations with HDC and FFF
  • Organic nanoparticles or nanocapsules
  • Internationals harmonization and validation
  • Size calculation tools

Wageningen Food Safety Research, decision support systems for the use of nanoparticles

Wageningen Food Safety Research develops and implements advanced decision support systems (DSS) to integrate data from the characterization of nano materials, their (potential) toxicity and human and environmental exposure. For this we use different approaches, amongst others Bayesian network statistics and ontologies.