New tool to harmonise risk assessment of food ingredients

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, European union, Europe, Efsa

A new tool for food developers, Europe's food risk agency
recommends the launch of a harmonised food database across the EU
to shed light on favourable and adverse effects food ingredients
may have on our health.

Data relating to the consumption of different foods have been collected at a national level in most European member states.

But because differences exist between the data, for example, food categorisation may be different between countries, comparison can be difficult.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) conclude​ the EU should have a unified database.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly complex food production chain working in a market currently worth about $1.4 trillion globally, a large number of food analyses are carried out by European countries to understand the products, and ensure they are safe for consumption.

"It is essential to know the concentrations of the components, which may be harmful to human health,"​ says EFSA.

Despite tough rules, food may on occasions contain substances/agents which could cause adverse health effects.

These components may be of natural origin, but can also be manmade substances entering the food chain through different pathways, adds the agency.

Results from the various food analyses by member states are used for comparison with regulatory limit values but are seldom made accessible for secondary users, such as scientists, modellers, risk assessors, and the general public.

EFSA recommends this week that it "try to get access to these occurrence data"​ in order to establish a "data warehouse"​, where the information is either stored or made accessible through links to existing databases.

EFSA would make these data publicly accessible.

A word of caution, scientists at the risk assessment agency claim to have identified "a lack of established guidance"​ regarding methods for dealing with uncertainty in exposure assessment and "probabilistic approaches"​.

Although a number of internationally accepted guidelines on how exposure assessments can be performed in various specific areas are already available, and some of which are currently used by EFSA.

The group of experts recommend that the food agency "continue to use these and keep a watching brief on when existing guidelines might need to be revised."

As a first step, the committee suggests data for a limited number of broad food categories, covering the whole diet, are collected from members to form an 'EU concise food consumption database', which could be extended at a later stage to a more detailed and comprehensive database.

Related topics: Ingredients

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