‘Industry has been upfront about its use of promising new technologies and that companies go to great lengths to ensure products are safe’, confirms Steffi Friedrichs, Director of the Nanotechnology Industries Association, at a Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) event held in Brussels on the 10 June 2009.
Under the title Regulating Nanotechnology in Food and Consumer Products: Developing A Consumer-focused Transatlantic Approach, the meeting aimed to encourage a ‘discussion concerning the regulatory approaches adopted by the EU and US and the necessary steps for ensuring that products containing nanotechnologies are safe and beneficial to consumers. The conference also aimed to help consumer organisations who are starting to work on these issues to further develop their understanding’.
Dr Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Woodrow Wilson Center, phrased concern ‘that controversy surrounding nanotechnology – some of which, he says, is not grounded in scientific fact – has led manufacturers to remove any mention of nanomaterials from their products...we have seen some companies drop the 'nano' claim while continuing to use nanotechnology. This suggests nanotechnology is going underground,’ he said. This concern was echoed by Harald Throne, researcher at the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, who said he found evidence that ‘suggests that companies may now view 'nano' as a negative label rather than an added value’.
In response to the lack of clarity and reliable information on the actual number of nanotechnology-enable products on the market, Dr Friedrichs ‘pointed to confusion about the definition of nanotechnology, with some NGOs defining 'nano' as materials smaller than 300 nanometres, while the industry uses the definition of less than 100 nanometres...varying definitions lead to claims that the industry is not open with information. But nobody is lying and nobody is misleading the public or authorities. Let's agree on what we're talking about and work together to inform consumers,’ she said.