Supplements leaders refute nanotech claims

The supplements industry has hit back at a report attacking its use of nanotechnology.

"A Hard Pill to Swallow: Barriers to effective FDA regulation of nanotechnology-based dietary supplements," published by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), says the FDA doesn't have sufficient resources or powers to regulate the technology.

It claims that little is known about the use of engineered nanoparticles in the dietary supplement market because the law requires supplement manufacturers to disclose only limited information about their products. What information is available is a result of dietary supplement manufacturers touting the use of nanotechnology when marketing their products, it says.

The reports goes on to claim that an inventory of federal environmental, health and safety research on nanotechnology, maintained by PEN, shows the US government is spending less than $1 million annually to study the direct impact of nanoscale materials on the gastrointestinal tract.

Lisa Barclay, co-author of the report, said: "While it is not possible to precisely determine the prevalence of dietary supplements using engineered nanoparticles, it is likely that the public's exposure to these products will grow significantly in the next several years."

David Rejeski, PEN's director, added: "It is not clear that the supplement industry is conducting the rigorous testing needed either to understand the effects of nanoscale ingredients in its products or to back up the product claims. This means that consumers are potentially exposed to unknown risks that should be balanced with the possible benefits of taking these supplements."

But trade body the Council for Responsible Nutrition said the report shed no new light on nanotechnology and took issue with its focus on dietary supplements.

"We question the true motives behind this report, which provides a very limited amount of useful information on nanotechnology and paints a misleading picture by implying that only one industry faces questions about nanotechnology," said Andrew Shao, CRN vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs.

"This report masquerades as a legitimate review of the use of nanomaterials in dietary supplements but in reality it seems to be an attempt to explain the authors' views on dietary supplement regulations and their suggestions for change.

"As far as we are aware, there are no specific safety issues associated with the use of nanotechnology. There is one area of agreement with the report:? that FDA could use more resources to better do its job. However, adequate agency funding and nanotechnology are not specific to dietary supplements?these issues affect all industries regulated by FDA."

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