Published on 23.01.2020

Nanomaterial analysis for consumer goods

As of 2021, the food industry and cosmetics manufacturers will have to officially declare the presence of nanomaterials in any of their products sold in Switzerland. The Swiss NanoAnalytics service platform, which aims to helps both industry and the authorities in the detection and declaration of nanomaterials contained in consumer goods, was officially launched today at the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg.

Synthetic titanium dioxide nanoparticles are used as whiteners in chewing gum, toothpaste, and sunscreen. Silicon dioxide nanoparticles are used as anti-clumping agents in spices, breakfast cereals, and powdered sauces. They are already named on packaging (E171 for titanium dioxide, E551 for silicon dioxide). But with the introduction of compulsory declarations for nanomaterials in May 2021, producers will have to mention “nano” on their packaging if components are present at the nanoscale.

A new platform providing services to industry, the authorities, and researchers
This change means that industry will have to test its products for nanomaterials. Specialized instruments and analytical methods are required, and can only be found in a small number of laboratories. Analysis can be extremely complicated, given that the physical and chemical properties of synthetic nanomaterials can vary significantly depending on the material and product tested.

Based at the University of Fribourg’s Adolphe Merkle Institute, Swiss NanoAnalytics provides a platform for nanomaterial analysis aimed at manufacturers, the authorities, and other research institutes. Available services include nanomaterial characterization, analysis of nanomaterials in consumer goods such as food and cosmetics, and testing of nanomaterial stability in biological fluids such as blood serum for example. 

A collaborative effort
Nanomaterial analysis is largely determined by definitions, regulations, and standards, raising complex issues and requiring sophisticated solutions. “Because of this complexity, Swiss NanoAnalytics relies on expertise from all over Switzerland,” said Professor Alke Fink, co-chair of BioNanomaterials at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, and one of Swiss NanoAnalytics’ co-initiators. To ensure precise evaluation of nanomaterials, input from experts from the regulatory authorities, industry and research institutions is a given. 

Challenges of nanomaterial analysis
Nanotechnology specialists from different fields were present at the Swiss NanoAnalytics launch to provide their perspective. Along with legal aspects of the new regulations, the challenges faced in implementing compulsory “nano” declarations were also discussed. Contactpointnano, the independent, national platform pooling the scientific and regulatory knowledge, and expertise available in Switzerland on the safe handling of synthetic nanomaterials, was also presented. It serves to answer concerns and specific questions related to the safe handling of nanomaterials.

Supporting industry and the authorities with state-of-the-art analytical methods 
“The Swiss NanoAnalytics mandate is to provide industry, the authorities and other research institutions with the most modern, and highest quality analytical methods," explained Dr. Christoph Geers, who manages the platform. Through this project, the Adolphe Merkle Institute is also making an important contribution towards better transparency related to the use of additives in food and cosmetics in Switzerland.

Addtional information:
Website of Swiss NanoAnalytics 

Images: Sven Bachmann