Too many toxic silver nanoparticles are on your vegetables and fruits

Toxic nanoparticles might be entering human food supply. What happens when silver nanoparticles are applied to a piece of fruit? In a recent study, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) researchers found that these particles could pose a potential health risk. When so many cardiologists are recommending more dark green leafy vegetables and colorful fruits such as berries, the least wanted materials you want to gulp down in your food are nanoparticles from pesticide residue.


Scientists develop new way to detect threatening nanoparticles in food. During the last few years, the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industries has increased.


Farmers have used silver nanoparticles as a pesticide because of their capability to suppress the growth of harmful organisms. However, a growing concern is that these particles could pose a potential health risk to humans and the environment. In a new study, researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a reliable method for detecting silver nanoparticles in fresh produce and other food products.


Following a new study at the University of Missouri, a reliable method of testing foods for the harmful particles has been found that might be implemented in the future


“More than 1,000 products on the market are nanotechnology-based products,” explains Mengshi Lin, associate professor of food science in the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, according to the August 22, 2013 news release, Toxic nanoparticles might be entering human food supply. “This is a concern because we do not know the toxicity of the nanoparticles. Our goal is to detect, identify and quantify these nanoparticles in food and food products and study their toxicity as soon as possible.”


Lin and his colleagues, including MU scientists Azlin Mustapha and Bongkosh Vardhanabhuti, studied the residue and penetration of silver nanoparticles on pear skin. First, the scientists immersed the pears in a silver nanoparticle solution similar to pesticide application. The pears were then washed and rinsed repeatedly. Results showed that four days after the treatment and rinsing, silver nanoparticles were still attached to the skin, and the smaller particles were able to penetrate the skin and reach the pear pulp.


“The penetration of silver nanoparticles is dangerous to consumers because they have the ability to relocate in the human body after digestion,” Lin says in the news release. “Therefore, smaller nanoparticles may be more harmful to consumers than larger counterparts.”


When ingested, nanoparticles pass into the blood and lymph system, circulate through the body and reach potentially sensitive sites such as the spleen, brain, liver and heart


The growing trend to use other types of nanoparticles has revolutionized the food industry by enhancing flavors, improving supplement delivery, keeping food fresh longer and brightening the colors of food. However, researchers worry that the use of silver nanoparticles could harm the human body.

“This study provides a promising approach for detecting the contamination of silver nanoparticles in food crops or other agricultural products,” Lin says in the news release. Members of Lin’s research team also included Zhong Zang, a food science graduate student. The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (ACS Publications)


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