Chemical hazards in foods of animal origin and the associated risks for public health: elementary considerations

Frans J.M. Smulders, Ivonne M.C.M. Rietjens, Martin D. Rose

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Although of the various hazards possibly prevalent in foods of animal origin, those of a biological nature are likely to result in the highest short-term risk for the health of the consumer, chemical hazards are generally perceived by the public as representing the top safety issue. The various food safety agencies around the world rely on formal risk analysis to determine which chemical hazards indeed represent risks (‘risk assessment’) and which measures should be taken to prevent this from happening (‘risk management’). In chemical risk assessment, various potentially toxic effects resulting from exposure to a particular identified hazard are characterised. These include those of a carcinogenic nature, but also genetic, teratogenic, photosensitisation, neurological, dermatologic, immunological, reproductive or other toxic effects need to be considered. To quantify the associated risk, the dose-response characteristics are analysed and the exposure of the human population (or subpopulation) to the hazard is assessed, from which data the resulting risk is estimated. Unless a hazard is of a carcinogenic or genotoxic nature, safety agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – on the basis of such estimations – define at what intake level certain chemical substances are still acceptable or tolerable and political decision makers such as the European Commission may issue associated legislation, which serves as the basis for risk management. Main sources of chemical hazards in major foods of animal origin (meat, milk, fish, eggs, honey) comprise the ‘avoidable hazards’ category (i.e. drug residues, pesticides, feed (/food) additives, food contact materials) and the ‘unavoidable hazards’ category (i.e. those hazards exposure to which is inevitable (persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, naturally occurring contaminants, and contaminants generated during food processing)). Risk management approaches are illustrated by summarising the strategies stipulated in European legislation and the role of veterinarians therein.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChemical hazards in foods of animal origin
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868773
ISBN (Print)9789086863266
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameChemical hazards in foods of animal origin
ISSN (Print)1871-9295


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