The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) yesterday proposed a new process for identifying emerging chemical risks in the food and feed chain using a variety of databases that log the incidence of industrial chemicals and environmental chemical contaminants in the European Union (EU). An EFSA statement said the framework would enable risk assessors to anticipate contamination of the food/feed chain by chemical hazards that have not yet been assessed by the EFSA or other similar bodies.

The EFSA also stated that it will soon launch a procurement to carry out a pilot study using the proposed approach.

The proposed framework is based on a technical report, entitled "A systematic procedure for the identification of emerging chemical risks in the food and feed chain," that was published last December on the EFSA website. The report and three appendices may be accessed via the following links:

  • Report (0.9 Mb)
  • Appendix A – In silico methods for environmental fate and (eco)toxicity (0.3 Mb)
  • Appendix B – Databases on chemical substances (0.3 Mb)
  • Appendix C – Nanomaterials (0.2 Mb)

The Abstract for this report explains:

This technical report presents a systematic framework for the identification of emerging chemical risks occurring in the food and feed chain with a likely direct or indirect impact on human, animal and/or plant health within the EFSA’s remit. Such risks may arise from intentionally and non-intentionally produced industrial chemicals, as well as certain natural contaminants that may be transferred to the food/feed chain through the environment.

The proposed framework uses a variety of data sources as an input, relating to, for example, industrial chemicals, environmental occurrence of chemical contaminants, as well as software models that can be used to predict the environmental behaviour and potential toxicity of chemical substances from their structural features and physico-chemical properties. The procedure consists of a multi-step selection process that starts with a list of chemicals to which a sequence of selection criteria is applied to identify the substances of potential concern. The selection criteria take into account a number of parameters such as volumes of production or import, persistence in the environment, potential for bioaccumulation, dispersive uses, toxicity, and any available outcomes of risk assessments. The procedure has two main entry points either for industrial chemicals registered under REACH Regulation or for substances consistently detected in the environment with a subset of more specific entry points depending on specific objectives and relevant data availability.

The procedure proposed in this report needs to be tested and further developed using specific examples of chemical substances, preferably through a pilot project. The results of the pilot project should inform on additional activities that might be needed for further refinement of the proposed approach. This iterative process will provide a basis for a proactive approach to understanding emerging risks from materials, products, and applications of the continually evolving scientific and technological developments.