Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nano-nano in the bottle: new technology for infant formula

There is a tomato on my windowsill and I keep staring at it when I do my dishes.  I don't have a dishwasher.  I am fascinated by how this tomato rotted and I can't bear to throw it out.  I live in Florida with no air conditioning; ceiling fans and terrazo floors keep it bearable in the summer.  So if food rots on my windowsill, it usually becomes a gooey mess.  This tomato rotted from the inside-out, and blackened and then shriveled like a grape turning into a raisin.  It never liquified.  Why?  I have never seen a tomato do this in my household.  I was waiting for the tomato to ripen, after buying it at the grocery store.  Damn tomatoes from the store, always hard as a rock and looking not yet ripe.  The thing never got ripe, it just rotted and shriveled.  So I start my paranoid musing.  What did they do to this poor little guy?  Irradiate him?  Or is it a genetically engineered mutant tomato?  What the hell is the food industry doing?

My thoughts turn to infant formula and a new patent owned by Nestle.  And I wonder how I can get my mind to understand the new technology that the food industry is now using.  It's called nanotechology.  The FDA says, "Nanotechnology allows scientists to create, explore, and manipulate materials measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter).  Such materials can have chemical, physical, and biological properties that differ from those of their larger counterparts."

The Nestle patent is called, "Nanoparticulated whey proteins,"  patent #8057839 filed in March of 2007 and published this month at the US Patent and Trademark Office.  The abstract states, "Specifically, the present invention pertains to the use of these nanoparticulated whey proteins as emulsifiers, fat substitute, micellar casein substitute, whitening, foaming, texturizing and/or filling agents."

The patent is intended for use in infant formula as well as in "pasterized UHT milk, sweet condensed milk, yoghurt, fermented milks, milk-based fermented products, milk chocolate, mousses, foams, emulsions, ice creams, fermented cereal based products, milk based powders, infant formula, diet fortifications, pet food, tablets, liquid bacterial suspensions, dried oral supplement, wet oral supplement."

Why are they doing this?  The patent states, "The nanoparticulated whey proteins have shown to be ideally suited for uses as an emulsifiers, fat substitutes, substitutes for micellar casein or foaming agents, since they are able to stabilize fat and/or air in an aqueous system for a prolonged period."

You say, "It's only a patent."  "It's not in our food system, and wouldn't be in baby formulas."  Hm....that's what you think?  It's not on the label.  Of course, I am laughing now.  Label?  Genetically engineered foods went commercial in 1985, starting with enzymes used in various food processes (wines, cheese, breads).  There are no labels.  Americans are just beginning to realize that their foods are genetically engineered.   So nanotechnology, this will take a long time for the public to get their heads around this.  And without labels, we all assume that it hasn't happened yet.  According to an article at global research, "The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group, a pro-nanotechnology analyst, suggests that there are now over 300 nano food products available on the market worldwide." and "It predicts that nanotechnology will be used in 40% of the food industries by 2015."  The article also makes an interesting statement relevant to the use of nanotechnology in baby formula.  

"Food 'fortification' will be used to increase the nutritional claims that can be made about a given processed food-for example the inclusion of 'medically beneficial' nano-capsules will soon enable chocolate chip cookies or hot chips to be marketed as health promoting or artery cleansing."

Here we are again, improving infant formula and guess who are the guinea pigs?  Of course, we have the infant formula PR department/mommy bloggers who believe that infant formula itself is not a risk, its just the polluted water in places like Africa. Yeah, sure, I know, I know most Americans believe that the risk of formula is just in the water.  Of course most Americans think that infant formula is a little milk, sugar, salt....genetic engineering?  Never heard of it.

Nanotechnology?  Never heard of it. And what's a little nanotechnology with a pinch of genetic engineering have to do with it?  This is America, land of innovation and invention.  Welcome, to my nightmare.

Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

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