The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has requested public comments on its draft “Guidance on risk assessment concerning potential risks arising from applications of nanoscience and nanotechnologies to food and feed.” The comment period closes February 25, 2011.

The draft guidance outlines under what circumstances nanomaterials in food and animal feed should be tested for potential health risks and how the risk assessment process should be conducted. According to the guidance, the risk of an engineered nanomaterial “will be determined by its chemical composition, physico-chemical properties, its hazard characterization and potential exposure.” At an initial stage for the proposed use of a nanomaterial in food or feed applications, where internal exposure, a high level of reactivity or mobility, and persistence of the nanomaterial exist, “in-depth testing” would be appropriate. While the guidance recognizes that characterization parameters “will depend on the nature, functionalities, and intended uses of the” engineered nanomaterial, certain parameters are essential and are set forth in a table.

The guidance also provides a number of decision trees and the types of testing that may be necessary or are required “by specific sector regulations or by EFSA guidance.” EFSA recognizes “several uncertainties related to the identification, characterization and detection of [engineered nanomaterials] which are related to the lack of suitable and validated test methods to cover all [their] possible applications, aspects and properties.” EFSA also recognizes “a number of uncertainties related to the applicability of current standard biological and toxicological testing methods,” and anticipates that the guidance will be updated following “appropriate developments.”