An EU-funded project is seeking dietary information from across the bloc to better assess exposure to contaminants and nutrients – and to harmonise data collection.
The Total Diet Exposure Study is intended to take into account the huge dietary diversity within the European Union. Led by statistician Dr Jean-Luc Volatier, of the French food safety agency ANSES, the project aims to quantify this variety – which currently makes it difficult for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the levels of both beneficial and harmful substances in European diets.
“The problem is that we are lacking a common European methodology,” Volatier said. “…When comparable exposure data is available the quality of risk assessment will improve, and it will be possible to adapt and improve regulations.”
To date, Europe-wide risk assessment is challenged by different ways of collecting data across the continent – and some eastern European nations do not collect dietary information at all.
Toxicologist Francesco Cubadda of Rome’s Higher Institute for Health ISS – who is also involved in the project – explained: “To evaluate food contamination levels of harmful chemical contaminant in each nation's diet, you first assess the total diet in a country, then you collect food samples to reconstruct the architecture of food consumption. After analysing those samples, and determining the average concentration of the chemicals, you can combine those data and determine the exposure and thus the risk associated with the average consumption.”
The project is expected to be beneficial to EU residents by improving the way controls are performed by the food industry and regulators – ultimately exposing Europeans to fewer harmful substances.