The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be looking to use emerging technology in products for livestock that could make animals on factory farms gain weight and absorb medications faster.
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The technology in question is nanotechnology, the process of manipulating or creating matter at the molecular level. While there are a range of uses for nanotechnology, including the development of clothing and cosmetics, it has become particularly prevalent in the commercial food sector. Nestle, Heinz, Kraft, and other companies have cumulatively invested billions of dollars into the industry.
FDA told Reuters last week that it is “particularly interested” in using nanotechnology to change the chemical, physical, or biological makeup of livestock feed and drugs. The agency has a history of using dangerous or untested technology and additives, often keeping products on the market even after they have been proven as unsafe for human and animal consumption.
“We know far too little about the human health and environmental effects of this technology to allow it to slip into our food without rigorous assessment,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst for Center for Food Safety.
FDA released a series of guidances last week on the use of nanotechnology in food products, stating that the agency is not making “broad, general assumptions” about its safety. The documents “encourage” manufacturers to consult with the FDA on the safety of their products before rolling them out to the public, as the agency does not have enough data about potential safety issues of nanotechnology in food products for humans or animals.
The agency has come under fire several times in recent years from public health and consumer watchdog groups such as the Center for Food Safety and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for its irresponsible oversight of additives in food and medicine, particularly on factory farms. In addition to loosely regulated experimentation with nanotechnology, FDA was also found to use harmful additives like arsenic in order to make animals gain weight faster.
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