Session @ IAFP 2014: “Novel Approaches to Estimate and Reduce Exposure to Contaminants in the Food Chain. Guidance and Practical Examples”

IAFP 2014
Budapest, Hungary


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ILSI Europe organised a session at IAFP 2014 on ‘Novel Approaches to Estimate and Reduce Exposure to Contaminants in the Food Chain. Guidance and Practical Examples ‘. It was supported by the Novel Foods and Nanotechnology, the Process-related Compounds and Natural Toxins and the Threshold of Toxicological Concern Task Forces.


The session programme is available here.


As humans, we are exposed to thousands of chemical substances in our daily lives. Over 70.000 chemicals are used commercially and more than 100.000 naturally occurring chemicals have been identified. Exposure can occur at different stages of our life. Therefore, the main objective of this symposium was to illustrate, through the use of some practical guidance and case studies how to potentially assess and if necessary reduce the exposure of hazardous contaminants to food. In order to reach this objective, the symposium explained the potential applicability of new and emerging technologies (e.g. in-vitro, in-silico methods) for consumer hazard and exposure assessment. However, in case of contaminants in food, for which there was no or limited toxicological information, the TTC concept will be used as suitable application for setting priorities among substances detected. Finally, with the help of previous highlighted topics, it can be shown that there have been significant developments over the last decades in risk assessment models. However, an equivalent development has not yet occurred in calculating effectiveness of exposure mitigations measures. Therefore assessing the impact of risk management measures, if done correctly, can lead to more effective risk reduction.

SESSION: “Novel Approaches to Estimate and Reduce Exposure to Contaminants in the Food Chain. Guidance and Practical Examples”


Applicability of new technologies for safety/nutritional assessment of (novel) foods and food ingredients.
Dr Mardas Daneshian (University of Konstanz)

In 2007, the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) published the strategy and vision for ‘Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century’ used in safety assessments in the food industry. The strategy is to move away from the more traditional hazard characterisation approaches (typically using laboratory animals) not only to new cellular and molecular methodologies but also to a better understanding of human biological pathways and networks and how these are affected by exposure to chemicals. It is anticipated that these approaches will improve the quality and robustness of risk assessments for human health. The activity aims at developing a roadmap that will identify the different steps to consider in safety assessment of novel foods and ingredients. The roadmap will include potential developments and applications of current and emerging technologies (e.g. in vitro testing methods, in silico models) as well as practical case studies. This activity is a unique opportunity to understand the strengths and weaknesses of new technologies as enablers of food safety assessment. It helps identifying what are the technologies that best fit with set requirements to perform safety assessments in the food industry. A roadmap and a few case studies (e.g. lycopene) illustrate how best to use these technologies.

Use and application of the Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) principle to assess risk from exposure to contaminants in foods.
Prof Corrado L. Galli (University of Milan)

The Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) is a principle which refers to the possibility of establishing a human exposure threshold value for all chemicals, below which there is no significant risk to human health. The concept that exposure thresholds can be identified for individual chemicals in the diet, below which no appreciable harm to health is likely to occur, is already widely embodied in the practice of many regulatory bodies in setting acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) for chemicals whose toxicological profile is known. However, the TTC concept goes further than this in proposing that a de minimis value can be identified for any chemical, including those of unknown toxicity, taking the chemical structure into consideration.

This concept forms the scientific basis of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1995 Threshold of Regulation for indirect food additives. The TTC principle has also been adopted by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in its evaluations of flavouring substances.

The establishment of a more widely accepted TTC would benefit consumers, industry and regulators. In precluding extensive toxicity testing and safety evaluations when human intakes are below such a threshold, it would focus limited resources of time, cost and expertise on the testing and evaluation of substances with greater potential to pose risks to human health and contribute to a reduction in the use of animals.

It is generally felt that the databases assembled are probably sufficient to guide the setting of TTC levels in principle. Further efforts are important for investigating particolar endpoints, such as immunotoxicity and allergenicity, for which only limited data are available. For endocrine toxicity, work is under way and needs to be evaluated before conclusions can be drawn on influence on present thresholds.

Based on the outcome of such a pre-screen, ranges of TTC values might become appropriate, rather than a single figure. Use of the TTC concept for regulatory purposes should be accompanied by increased sophistication of exposure assessments and considerations for both dietary and non dietary applications.

A framework to determine the effectiveness of mitigation or exposure reduction measures on dietary exposure
Ms Sue O’Hagan (PepsiCo)

In order to ensure the safety of our food, risk managers may implement measures to reduce human exposure to chemical contaminants via food consumption. The evaluation of the effectiveness of a measure either pre- or post-implementation is an important, but often overlooked, step in the risk analysis process for which the scientific basis can often be lacking. The aim of this study was to develop a systematic approach for determining the effectiveness of mitigation measures to reduce dietary exposure to chemical contaminants. A general framework for evaluation of the effectiveness of measures to reduce human exposure to food contaminants has been developed. The general outline was then refined by application of the framework to three different, carefully chosen, cases: 1) methyl mercury in fish and fish products, 2) deoxynivalenol in cereal grains, and 3) furan in heated products. From the case studies it was found that many uncertainties and natural variations exist, which make it difficult to assess the impact of the mitigation measure. Whenever possible, quantitative methods should be used to describe the current variation and uncertainty. Additional data should be collected, via long term monitoring programs, to cover natural variability and reduce uncertainty. An assessment of uncertainty, however large, should also be considered in the assessment. The proposed methodology provides a conceptual framework for addressing these issues systematically.


For more information on this session, please contact Dr Alessandro Chiodini (


Visit the IAFP 2014 website.