EU food chemical study could tighten regulations

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

An EU-funded project into maternal exposure of certain chemicals
found in foods could lead to more effective food regulations.

This is certainly the ultimate aim of the NewGeneris project, which involves researchers from 25 institutions in 16 EU member states. The team has been given funds to investigate how exposure to chemicals in food and the environment during pregnancy is connected with childhood cancer and immune disorders. The project also hopes to contribute to improved child health by supplying data that will lead to better health policies and higher standards of food quality. The study will focus on a number of chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found in processed food, polluted air, tobacco smoke); heterocyclic amines (processed food); nitrosamines (food, water, tobacco smoke); acrylamide (processed food); mycotoxins (contaminated food); dioxin (contaminated food, polluted air); PCBs (contaminated food, polluted air); and ethanol (alcohol). The researchers will be looking not only to ascertain the presence of these chemicals in the blood of mothers and children, but to follow through and establish the biological consequences of exposure. Childhood cancer has increased during recent decades, as has the worldwide prevalence of childhood immune disorders such as asthma and eczema. Childhood leukaemia in particular has become more prevalent, said project coordinator Professor Jos Kleinjans from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The increase must be attributed to something, he said. The scientists are working on two hypotheses, either that the increase in cancer incidences has been caused by a change in human genes, or by changes in the environment. "It is unlikely that biological changes have taken place, so the environment is therefore the likely cause," Kleinjans stated. The researchers will use cohorts or biobanks in Norway, Denmark, the UK and Spain, and later on in the project, will also establish a biobank on the Greek island of Crete. Together, the banks represent a total of around 300,000 mother-child pairs, thus constituting one of the largest studies of its kind ever conducted.

Related topics: Science, Food labelling

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