IFR is contributing to a new EU project, TDS-Exposure, that is aiming to improve and standardise the monitoring of our exposure to contaminants and other food components in our diet. These will be based on Total Diet Studies, which assess the contamination of food in the diet as a whole, rather than of raw ingredients, and so give a truer picture of the problem as faced by consumers and regulators. The research at IFR, led by Paul Finglas, will develop and implementing an overall quality framework for TDS centres, and help set up training to ensure consistency of standards across the EU.
Health monitoring and risk assessments are important for ensuring that the food we eat is safe, without dangerous levels of contamination from toxins, heavy metals or pesticides. Total diet studies give information of the risks across the whole diet, and over a long time, allowing food regulators to identify the key foods or contaminants that need to be monitored. Across Europe, however, methods vary, and in some states total diet studies are not carried out at all.
This new project, which involves researchers from 26 partners in 19 different countries, will harmonise the methods used for food sampling, analysis, and exposure assessment modelling, by comparing the various methods and establishing best practice. Training and support will be rolled out to countries without a total diet study programme and to ensure that those that do produce consistent data, which will be brought together into a database. This will become an invaluable resource for regulators and risk assessors and organisations such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and WHO/FAO.