MAFF uses new method to assess food risks to human health

A project into risks to human health from foods will include some use of probabilistic modelling. This form of risk assessment is thought to provide more realistic results and to offer transparency regarding which factors are taken into consideration when assessing risks.

“It is quite a big change,” Dr Gill Price, senior research officer at the Institute for Environment and Health (IEH) told edie. Probabilistic modelling has never been used, to Dr Price’s knowledge, by a UK government department. It is a method accepted, in some instances, by the US EPA. “The US is the world leader in probabilistic modelling”, says Dr Price.

The Risk Assessment Fellowship is a three-year study conducted on a joint basis by the IEH and the Medical Research Toxicology Unit. It focuses on risks to human health from foods and the models produced by the study will concentrate on foods’ impacts on the development of human cancers.

Risks to human health from foods come from a variety of sources including:

  • additive
  • pesticide residues
  • veterinary residues
  • heavy metals
  • naturally-occurring toxicants

Thus far, UK government departments have used Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) modelling to assess risks to human health from foods. “With the current approach, you end up with a single ‘threshold’ level,” explains Dr Price. “The idea of probabilistic modelling is to create a distribution of risks that better reflects risk uncertainties.”

IEH was created after publication of the 1992 White Paper, The Health of the Nation. It is part of the University of Leicester and is largely funded by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health.

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