Knowns, Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns
This concluding chapter draws upon the discussion on different aspects of nanotechnologies presented in the preceding chapters. It looks at the relevant materials, products and applications objectively, and analyses the likely benefits and potential risks to the consumer. It concludes that application of nanotechnologies would bring a number of subtle but far-reaching benefits to the consumer, in terms of innovative, healthy, and tasteful food products. It also stresses that a distinction needs to be made between 'soft’ (soluble, digestible) and ‘hard’ (insoluble, indigestible, biopersistent) nanomaterials. It argues that whilst applications using ‘hard’ nanomaterials would need detailed case-by-case safety evaluations, the development of 'soft’ food nanostructures need not require extensive safety testing. The chapter also wraps up the discussion on consumer attitudes towards new technologies in food, and discusses how some of the nanotechnology applications may be viewed by the consumer. Drawing upon the assessment of regulatory frameworks, the chapter presents suggestions for a way forward. It emphasises that many of the new developments may be regulated through the food industry's best practices and self-regulation, and that there is a need for public engagement to build confidence, trust, and acceptance of the new technological developments.