Exposure assessment of process-related contaminants in food by biomarker monitoring

Ivonne M.C.M. Rietjens, P. Dussort*, Helmut Günther, Paul Hanlon, Hiroshi Honda, Angela Mally, Sue O’Hagan, Gabriele Scholz, Albrecht Seidel, James Swenberg, Justin Teeguarden, Gerhard Eisenbrand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Exposure assessment is a fundamental part of the risk assessment paradigm, but can often present a number of challenges and uncertainties. This is especially the case for process contaminants formed during the processing, e.g. heating of food, since they are in part highly reactive and/or volatile, thus making exposure assessment by analysing contents in food unreliable. New approaches are therefore required to accurately assess consumer exposure and thus better inform the risk assessment. Such novel approaches may include the use of biomarkers, physiologically based kinetic (PBK) modelling-facilitated reverse dosimetry, and/or duplicate diet studies. This review focuses on the state of the art with respect to the use of biomarkers of exposure for the process contaminants acrylamide, 3-MCPD esters, glycidyl esters, furan and acrolein. From the overview presented, it becomes clear that the field of assessing human exposure to process-related contaminants in food by biomarker monitoring is promising and strongly developing. The current state of the art as well as the existing data gaps and challenges for the future were defined. They include (1) using PBK modelling and duplicate diet studies to establish, preferably in humans, correlations between external exposure and biomarkers; (2) elucidation of the possible endogenous formation of the process-related contaminants and the resulting biomarker levels; (3) the influence of inter-individual variations and how to include that in the biomarker-based exposure predictions; (4) the correction for confounding factors; (5) the value of the different biomarkers in relation to exposure scenario’s and risk assessment, and (6) the possibilities of novel methodologies. In spite of these challenges it can be concluded that biomarker-based exposure assessment provides a unique opportunity to more accurately assess consumer exposure to process-related contaminants in food and thus to better inform risk assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-40
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary process-related contaminants
  • External exposure assessment
  • Physiologically based kinetic models
  • Risk assessment


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