The J.M. Smucker Company: Request for Report on Nanomaterials

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Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the molecular scale to build structures, tools, or products. While nanotechnology allows the creation of new particles and devices, the scientific community has raised serious questions about the safety of nanoparticles, especially when eaten.  

Independent laboratory testing indicates that The J.M. Smucker Company uses titanium dioxide, a metal oxide used to whiten foods, which contains nanoparticles designed to better reflect light.  

Because of their small size, nanoparticles are more likely to enter cells, tissues, and organs where they may interfere with normal cellular function and cause damage and cell death. Peer-reviewed scientific research suggests that nanomaterials (including those larger than 100 nm) may not be safe for ingestion. There is no consensus on what size is safe, or what long-term effects these materials may have.  

Several in-vivo and in-vitro studies on the effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles have raised concerns including that such nanoparticles may cause inflammation, cell death, and/or DNA damage (including DNA strand breaks and chromosomal damage in bone marrow and peripheral blood). (See Trouiller 2009; Lai 2008; Gerloff 2009; Tassinari 2013; Gui 2013; Lucarelli 2004).  

The National Research Council reported in 2012 that “regulators, decision-makers, and consumers still lack the information needed to make informed public health and environmental policy and regulatory decisions" about nanoparticles. 

Similarly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not enacted regulations to protect consumer health related to the use of nanomaterials in food, but has issued guidance stating: 

  • Nanoparticles can have chemical, physical, and biological properties that differ from those of their larger counterparts; and… 

  • “We are not aware of any food ingredient. . . intentionally engineered on the nanometer scale for which there are generally available safety data sufficient to serve as the foundation for a determination that the use of a food ingredient . . . is GRAS [Generally Recognized As Safe].” 

Companies that use, intend to use, or simply allow the use of nanomaterials in their food and food packaging products may face significant financial, legal, or reputational risk. Proponents believe that the best way for The J.M. Smucker Company to protect consumers, and shareholder value, is to avoid using nanoparticles until and unless they have been subject to robust evaluation and demonstrated to be safe for human health and the environment. 

Shareholders request the Board publish, within six months of the 2016 annual meeting, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report on the company’s use of nanomaterials. This report should identify products or packaging that currently contain nanoparticles, the purpose of such use, and actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate the risk nanoparticles may pose to human health and the environment, including eliminating the use of nanomaterials until or unless they are proven safe through long-term testing. 

Resolution Details

Company: The J.M. Smucker Company

Lead Filer: 
As You Sow

Year: 2016

Filing Date: 
May 2016

Initiative(s): Nanomaterials

Status: Withdrawn; Company will address

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