Risk-benefit assessment for better food safety

Press/Media: Expert CommentOther


Can you explain a little about the background of your project, its aim and where the concept came from? Many foods and food ingredients have both benefi ts and risks. However, common food labelling methods means that either benefi ts or risks are presented, not usually both. The central goal of QALIBRA is therefore to develop improved approaches for the assessment and communication of net health impacts of food policies and dietary choices. As part of this, QALIBRA aims to identify and potentially characterise the uncertainties affecting risks and benefi ts, as these may cause uncertainty about the magnitude and even the direction of the net health impact. The tools developed by QALIBRA will be tested and evaluated in detailed case studies. How did you fi rst become involved with the programme and what has your input been thus far? The call text of the activity (T. - Assessing health benefi ts against potential effects of environmental contaminants in selected food groups) which fell under the thematic priority Food Quality and Safety in the EU Framework 6 Programme, was of great interest and very relevant for the research carried out at the institutes we work for. Researchers at Matis had been in contact with researchers at FERA regarding another project that did not materialise. These institutes decided to join forces again when this call text came out in the fall of 2004 and build a consortium that would send in an application for this call text. What are the expectations and objectives of the project? QALIBRA aims to develop methods that can take account of multiple risks, benefi ts and uncertainties and implement them in a web-based software for assessing and communicating net health impacts. How it has progressed thus far? The overall progress of the project has been good, however, we had a slow start that was largely due to the complexity of the issues involved in risk-benefi t assessment, and the ambitious methodology that QALIBRA set out to develop. Are there any ‘partners’ involved in your research? If so, can you explain their expertise, what they contribute and what they will gain from their involvement? • Matis, Iceland, coordinator and leads work for case studies on seafood • The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), United Kingdom, leads work on the web-enabled software, expertise in uncertainty analysis and statistics • National Institute of Public Health and The Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands, leads the development of the general framework for risk-benefi t analysis & functional food case study, expertise in toxicology and epidemiology • Wageningen University, the Netherlands, leads work on risk communication and dissemination • University of Patras, Greece, expertise in web interface design, and evaluation of usability of prototypes of the web-enabled software • Altagra, Hungary, expertise in planning and organising end-user testing workshops • IPIMAR, Portugal, relevant expertise for case studies on seafood Furthermore, has your organisation collaborated with international partners – has the collaborative approach worked? The main strength of the QALIBRA project is that it is based on a co-operation between leading institutions in Europe with complementary expertise in risk-benefi t assessment methodologies, uncertainty analysis, risk communication and the selected case studies i.e. oily fi sh and functional foods. This collaborative approach has worked very well in this project. In addition, QALIBRA has formed close and productive collaborations with two other EU projects on risk-benefi t assessment: the BENERIS project, which takes a complementary approach to risk-benefi t methodology, and the BRAFO project, which is developing tiered framework for risk-benefi t assessment. The tools developed by QALIBRA fi t very well into the upper (quantitative) tiers of the BRAFO framework. Can you tell us if you have faced any major challenges so far? The biggest challenges have been the complexity of the problem, limitations in available data, and developing a general framework and software that are applicable to a wide range of risk-benefi t problems. The complexities include the need to take account of aspects of health effects (such as the duration and severity of effects, and the possibility of recovery) that are not normally considered in risk assessment. Data to estimate these are often lacking or indirect, especially when the effects have been identifi ed from animal testing. Developing general tools requires a very fl exible design for both the model and the software, so that they can deal with different types of effects (e.g. quantal and continuous effects; and effects on the current or next generation). What is the expected output of the project? • New approaches for assessing, integrating and communicating food benefi ts & risks • Web-enabled software which implements the risk-benefi t analysis methods developed in the project • Project website with general information about the project as well as access to the QALIBRA risk-benefi t software • Scientifi c and popular publications • Presentations at national and international meetings (e.g. scientifi c conferences, university lectures) • Brochure about the QALIBRA project • International technical end-users workshop for disseminating processes and results to stakeholders

Period1 Jan 2009

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • Title-
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Producer/AuthorR. Rademaker
    PersonsL.J. Frewer, Heleen van Dijk, M.T.A. Wentholt