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Nanoparticles in foods raise safety questions

These microadditives enhance color, flavor and freshness. But what do they do in the body?

By
1:28pm, October 16, 2015
jawbreakers

NOSHING ON NANO  Nanoparticles can make foods like jawbreaker candies brighter and creamier and keep them fresh longer. But researchers are still in the dark about what the tiny additives do once inside our bodies.

It seemed like a small thing when Paul Westerhoff’s 8-year-old son appeared, with his tongue and lips coated bright white. The boy had just polished off a giant Gobstopper, a confectionery made of sugary, melt-in-the-mouth layers. Curious about the white coating, Westerhoff, an environmental engineer, pored over the jawbreaker’s contents and discovered just how incredibly small the matter was.

Among the Gobstopper’s ingredients were submicroscopic particles of titanium dioxide, a substance commonly added to plastics, paint, cosmetics and sunscreen. At the time, Westerhoff’s lab group at Arizona State University was actively tracking the fate of such particles in municipal wastewater systems across the nation.

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