29 September 2009

Nanoproducts: beware of fakes!

Legal status of nanomaterials and nanoproductsIf in Asian countries the postscript "nano" promotes the product on the market, then in Western Europe it is more likely to scare off the consumer, because only a few manufacturers label their products in this way.

About how we are dealing with the development and application of norms and rules governing the creation and use of food nanoproducts – in the article of Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Olga Baklitskaya-Kameneva, published on the STRF website.

Background of the issueThe whole world is following the rapid progress of nanotechnology – methods for producing and using tiny particles smaller than a hundred nanometers, which are used in microelectronics and energy, in the chemical and food industries.

Nanomedicine and nanobiology are developing most actively. The properties of nanoparticles (increased biological and chemical activity, large specific surface area), which sometimes radically differ from the properties of micro- and macro-substances, can be used for early diagnosis of diseases, to combat cancerous tumors and infectious diseases, for targeted drug delivery, environmental purification, improving the taste and nutritional properties of food.

At the same time, the high chemical activity of nanoparticles significantly changes their solubility and catalytic properties. A large specific surface area contributes to an increase in the production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which can damage biological structures, in particular DNA. Tiny sizes allow nanoparticles to be embedded in membranes, penetrate into cellular organelles, changing the functions of biostructures. Thus, nanoparticles of 70 nanometers in size can penetrate into the lungs, 50 nanometers into cells, 30 nanometers into blood and brain cells. Nanoparticles are good adsorbents, so they can be carriers of a large number of toxins. The body's defenses may not always recognize nanoparticles due to their small size and do not remove them from the body. Humanity is already dealing with new products based on nanotechnology, so the assessment of possible risks in their production and use is of particular importance.

According to experts, the volume of sales of Russian–made nanoproducts by 2015 will grow to 300 billion rubles, and the volume of payments from its exports - up to 75 billion rubles. And Russia, of course, does not stand aside when it comes to the safety of nanotechnology and nanoproducts.

In August 2007, the Government of the Russian Federation adopted a resolution on the Federal Target Program "Development of Nanoindustry infrastructure in the Russian Federation for 2008-2010". The program highlights a separate direction "Development of the methodological component of the nanoindustry infrastructure", which provides for the development of methods for the system of ensuring the uniformity of measurements in the nanoindustry and the safety of the creation and use of nanoindustry objects. Rosnauka oversees and supports about ten projects in this direction, the parent organizations for two of them are the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Moscow State University of Food Production (MGUPP).

Standards"Using domestic and international experience, we began to develop the concept of conducting toxicological studies in assessing the safety of nanomaterials, nanoparticles and the use of nanotechnology," says Viktor Tutelyan, Director of the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

– Having overcome departmental and interdepartmental barriers, Rospotrebnadzor, N. F. Gamalei Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, V. N. Orekhovich Research Institute of Biomedical Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences, A. N. Sysin Research Institute of Human Ecology and Environmental Hygiene of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Research Institute of Occupational Medicine of the Russian Academy of Sciences, SSC RF – Institute of Medical-Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, F. F. Erisman National Research Center of Hygiene. The "Concept of toxicological studies, risk assessment methodology, methods of identification and quantitative determination of nanomaterials" was developed and considered at different levels, signed on October 31, 2007 by the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation, Academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Gennady Onishchenko.

The contract of the Institute, one of the project participants and the lead contractor, is aimed at creating regulatory and methodological support for an integrated safety system in the process of research, development, production, handling and disposal of nanomaterials in the Russian Federation.

"We have developed methodological recommendations on the algorithm for assessing the safety of nanomaterials. This will make it possible to predict possible risks in two to three days, based on all the data accumulated by science on this type of compounds. Let's say one product is completely harmless, another is potentially dangerous, and the third can be very dangerous – but to what extent? In the latter case, it is necessary to conduct additional research. Such an approach, on the one hand, will help to lay down both production and financial risks for manufacturers at an early stage. On the other hand, it will not mislead the population and abandon progressive developments, as happened in the early 1990s with the Russian microbiological industry, which produced one and a half million tons of feed protein. The plants were closed, the vitamin and the most powerful microbiological industry were lost," explains Academician Tutelyan. It is necessary to properly certify nanoproducts and nanomaterials, to understand their properties, biological activity, and the possibility of influencing a living organism, including the plant organism.

In two years of work, 32 regulatory documents have been prepared, which, in particular, define the requirements for the assortment and the creation of a bank of standard samples of nanomaterials for the unification of methods for safety monitoring. Requirements have been created for a data bank for risk assessment of nanoparticles and nanomaterials. The concepts of selection of standard samples of abiogenic and biogenic nanomaterials when creating their data bank are formulated. The approach to the development of documents regulating the requirements for standard samples is defined. A guide has been prepared for the preparation of a safety data sheet for nanomaterials.

The main goal of this work, which is carried out as part of the creation of a common infrastructure of the nanoindustry in the country, is to develop a common "language" for specialists of various profiles in order to organize state sanitary and epidemiological expertise, state registration at the stages of production, importation into the country, storage and sale of products, as well as disposal of nanomaterials.

Test labs"In the case of food, it is better to make sure of their safety once again, to prove it.

This is the task of both a scientist and a food manufacturer. We know that the vast majority of modern diseases are alimentary dependent, the cause of their occurrence is associated with improper nutrition. An imbalance of nutrients can lead to many known diseases with age. And if we add to this even a small risk associated with the appearance of a "new" ingredient in the product, having nanoscale and, as a result, increased biological activity, which attacks, actively affects the body or participates in some kind of metabolic process? It is necessary not only to minimize the emerging risk, but, most importantly, to learn how to identify it both on a qualitative and quantitative level. If this "nanoobject" remains in the composition of a food product, the manufacturer must guarantee that it is safe for human health," explains Professor Alla Kochetkova, head of the problematic food biotechnology research laboratory of MGUPP.

To assess the content of nanomaterials and nanoparticles in agricultural products, in food and packaging materials, a specialized reference nanolaboratory is being created at MGUPP within the framework of the state contract "Development of regulatory and methodological support and means of monitoring the content and safety of nanoparticles in agricultural products, food and packaging materials" with the participation of the Research Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Biochemistry. A. N. Baha RAS, Federal Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor, Research Institute of Metrological Service. The main task of the laboratory staff is to create a system of certified methods for determining the content of artificial nanoparticles in food raw materials, products and packaging from the point of view of assessing the impact on human life and health.

"Currently, the directions of rapid detection of pathogens in food, obtaining disinfecting containers and packaging, obtaining effective food antioxidants and developing fundamentally new methods for assessing the quality of food are developing most intensively in the world. In the laboratory, we conduct preliminary tests of methods proposed for state certification and implementation into practice of authorized regulatory bodies, as well as those included in the production regulations of nanoindustry enterprises. We have the most modern equipment – several types of scanning probe microscopes, atomic scales, electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer, IR Fourier spectrometer, atomic absorption spectrometer, liquid chromatograph, sample preparation system and much more. And already today we are creating original methods, for example, sample preparation. It is assumed that such nanolabs will appear in the future when regional control bodies are created. Therefore, we complete the laboratory by choosing serial devices according to the optimal price-quality ratio," explains Professor Anatoly Filippov, scientific director of the laboratory. In such laboratories, the scientist explains, it is possible to identify and identify all types of nanomaterials in food, packaging and agricultural products. In addition, they need to carry out all the main stages of sample preparation and their research without the involvement of third-party organizations.

The reference nanolaboratory of MGUPP also conducts research on the use of silver nanoparticles as food nanoconservants and nanofilters. "As a promising continuation of the ongoing work, we are already offering an innovative direction "New nanofiltration polymer films and membranes based on them for the concentration and purification of aqueous and water-organic solutions, as well as use as a "smart" food packaging due to the introduction of metal nanoparticles into the polymer base"," says Anatoly Filippov.

NanoparticlesIt is known that even a glass of milk or tap water contains hundreds of thousands of colloidal particles per cubic centimeter.

What kind of nanoparticles get into food? Are all of them harmful?

"Nanoparticles are divided into two categories. The first are natural supplements, the concentration of which does not pose any harm. These can be natural ingredients dispersed to the size of nanoparticles (propolis nanodispersions, green tea with nanoparticles with increased antioxidant activity, carotenoids), as well as initial nanoobjects (globular proteins, oligosaccharides). The second type includes nanodispersions of selenium, silver, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and other inorganic substances that are specially introduced or fall into the product from the packaging, which are uncharacteristic for traditional food. They, according to experts, pose a potential threat to human health. Such materials may exhibit properties that do not manifest themselves at the macro- or molecular levels. In particular, the threat may be posed by nanoselene, which Chinese manufacturers enrich some varieties of tea to compensate for its deficiency in the human body. Nanosilver introduced into food packaging to give it biocidal properties can also, if it gets into food, carry a potential threat to health," explains Professor Konstantin Popov, responsible contractor under the contract of the MGUPP laboratory under the Federal Target Program. In general, according to him, the degree of influence of nanoparticles on the body depends on their size, mass, chemical composition, surface properties and aggregation methods.

"We have published the first review on food nanotechnology ("Russian Chemical Journal", No. 1-2, 2009). But, unfortunately, in conditions of acute information shortage. Russia, having declared the development of nanotechnology as a priority, is essentially deprived of legal and independent access to the main array of foreign periodicals on this topic. Most foreign journals devoted to nanotechnology are not available in the country's leading libraries. The material we have collected gives a very contradictory picture.

On the one hand, the number of nanotechnology implementations in the food sector and packaging production is steadily growing. On the other hand, there are still no mandatory labeling requirements for such goods in the world, as is done for genetically modified products. On the market, you can encounter various terms, for example, "nanofood" (nanofood) or "ultrafine food" (ultrafine food). At the same time, it is quite difficult to figure out how such products really correspond to the "nano" category. In Western Europe, the consumer is more sophisticated and demanding, and the rules for declaring a new product are more stringent. Therefore, only a few manufacturers label their products as "nanoproduct" or "product manufactured using nanotechnology". It is more profitable to hide this information. It can be assumed that in reality there are significantly more products containing nanocomponents on the market than is officially declared. A completely different situation is typical for Asian countries. Here the nano brand is popular and promotes the product in the consumer market. Taking advantage of the absence of strict criteria, manufacturers assign such a brand even to those products that do not correspond to this category in any way. This pattern is especially typical for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Accordingly, there are no standards to be guided by. And there is a danger that legal aspects at this stage may play the role of a brake. That is why it is so important to develop a system of norms and rules governing the creation and use of food nanoproducts," Konstantin Popov summed up.

The issues of studying the safety of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in our country and abroad are currently at the stage of developing norms, requirements, methodologies and standards. And information in these areas should be open so that consumers understand what new substances and technologies are capable of.

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