The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it is looking to commission research or survey projects in a number of areas.
Projects include the reduction of campylobacter and salmonella in poultry, chemical contaminants from food production, and the safety assessment of novel and GM foods.
The latter project, funded by the Novel Foods, Additives and Supplements Division of the FSA, aims to ensure that "sound science is applied to consumer safety issues concerning novel foods".
But the new research programme (G03) will build on the results obtained in two previous programmes on the safety (G01) and safety assessment (G02) of novel foods and continue to support the mandatory safety assessment of GM and non-GM novel foods.
Under G01, analytical procedures were developed with a view to ensuring that existing and proposed labelling regulations can be enforced.
The programme also funded projects which addressed the potential for horizontal gene transfer to gut bacteria, thepotential for GM and novel foods to be allergenic, addressed transgene stability and looked for unintended effects arising from transgene insertion.
Under G02, emerging techniques were developed, which explored the applicability and practicality of using a variety of technologies in genomics, proteomics and metabolic profiling in the safety assessment process.
"The new G03 programme will build on and continue to support the mandatory safety assessment of GM and novel foods in order that the most up-to-date scientific knowledge may be used," reports the FSA.
Essentially the research will investigate post-market monitoring of novel foods.
Novel food authorisations have recently included those for phytosterol ingredients with cholesterol lowering properties. However, certain groups, particularly young children and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, should avoid such products, because of concerns regarding vitamin absorption, says the FSA.
Risk management measures have been put in place that are intended to discourage consumption by non-target groups, and to ensure thatthe products are not over consumed by the target group.
"The agency wishes to test the effectiveness of these by funding a programme of post-market monitoring, focusing on phytosterol and phytostanol containing products," adds the UK agency.
Proposals are to include evaluation of actual consumption of these products in the UK.
The FSA has set a target of reducing foodborne disease by 20 per cent by 2006 and to further reduce foodborne illness over the next five years (2005-2010).
As campylobacter is responsible for the majority of cases, it is clear that to achieve the target, action needs to be focused on this organism, writes the FSA.
While it is accepted that there may be a number of routes by which humans are exposedto campylobacter, there is strong evidence that the most significant is the presence of this organism on chicken, the agency adds.
As a result, the FSA has set a new target to work with industry to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the incidence of UK produced chicken testing positive for campylobacter by 2010.
The B15 research programme has a specific focus on poultry and campylobacter in support of the reduction target.
"The agency supports the Advisory Committee for the Microbiological Safety of Food(ACMSF) view that rigorous application of biosecurity measures combined with high standards of stockmanship and attention to good flock health can make a significant impact in reducing levels of campylobacter in housed broiler flocks."
Full details of the research calls can be obtained from the MB-FSA.