Chemicals in Food
The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) closely collaborates with research institutes, universities and international organisations worldwide with the aim of estimating exposure to chemicals in food.
Chemical substances are used in many stages of food production and distribution and play an important role.
Food additives are used, for example, to prolong shelf life and make food more attractive through flavourings and colour. Other chemicals are used to fight diseases in farm animals and crops.
Furthermore, to keep food hygienic and attractive it needs to be kept in containers or protected by packaging materials that are made of chemical substances such as plastics.
There are a whole range of issues which the regulator has to be vigilant about: additives, flavouring, contaminants, pesticide residues, food contact materials, hormones in meat not to mention fraudulent practices.
While there are clear benefits to the use of chemicals in food production and distribution, these have to be balanced against the potential health risks due to the side effects and residues of these chemicals.
A recent example of international collaboration involving IHCP scientists is the FACET (Flavourings, Additives and food Contact materials Exposure Task) project. Funded under the EU 7th Framework Programme for R&D, this project ran from 2008 until 2012, with the aim of estimating exposure to chemicals in food across Europe.
Its consortium consisted of 20 collaborative partners across the EU, from industrial, academic and public body research centres. Results of its activities (trainings, workshops, tools) will continue to be delivered in 2012 and 2013.
The main outcome of this project will be the creation of an IT food chemical exposure surveillance system sustainable beyond the life of the project, covering representative regions of the EU and meeting, to the highest possible standard, the needs of the EU regulatory authorities in terms of protection of consumer health.
This system is now hosted by the IHCP.
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Photo: Steak with onion rings. Copyright Corbis.