18 April 2019
EU
Food Allergy, Other Diseases
- Chemicals, - Food Safety

We are constantly exposed to chemicals in our daily life. It is in the cookies we eat, the cosmetics we use, and the clothes that we wear. Fortunately, most of them do not harm the majority of the population. But to people with sensitive skin, particularly children and elderly, or for those with respiratory diseases, chemicals can provoke severe reactions and serious disability.

Risk factor: The cocktail-effect

Chemicals that are harmless when isolated may lead to unpredictable effects when aggregated. Yet, at this moment chemical substances are assessed one at a time and not in combination. The lack of knowledge on chemical cocktails leads to potential risks for human health.

New EFSA scientific tool to evaluate combined chemicals’ effects

To allow for a better risk assessment in food and feed, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Scientific Committee has developed a practical scientific tool that harmonises the framework to evaluate the chemicals’ so called “combined effects”.

As Prof. Christer Hogstrand, Chair of the Chemical Mixtures Working Group, said: “Interactions [among chemicals] are uncommon overall but need checking, particularly if toxicity increases. Our guidance allows us to do this for every mixture we look at.”

The new harmonised framework on assessing mixtures follows the same procedures as assessing single substances, taking into account who is exposed to chemicals and by how much. It shall support EU and national risk managers to make informed decisions in situations when aggregated effects need to be considered.

Uncertainty of chemicals’ effects remains risk factor

EFA welcomes this new EFSA’s scientific tool as a complementary framework to the current EU requirements for assessing single substances under the EU 2006 Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). However, as it touches only on combined effects on food and feed, mixtures of chemicals present in clothes or cosmetics remain a high risk factor for people with sensitive skin or respiratory disease. 

More information on the new EFSA framework on combined effects can be found here.

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The EFA Team