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article imageNew technology for food contamination screening

By Tim Sandle     Jul 23, 2017 in Health
Bonn - Contaminated food is a major health risk to the consumer and it is also bad for business. If undesirable substances are ingested this can lead to significant health consequences, and many risks arise from the environment.
Foods can become contaminated fairly readily from environmental pollutants; the concern for food manufacturers is the level of contamination. Here simply detecting a contaminant does not immediately translate to a health risk arising. What is important is the toxicological level. Toxicity is the degree to which a substance can damage an organism and different chemicals fall into different toxicological classes and there are different thresholds or levels, above which harm can occur. While these levels are established the sources of risk can alter through variations to manufacturing conditions, the environment, human activities and so on.
Examples of pollutants include dioxins, mineral oils, and perfluorinated substances. Dioxins are mostly by-products of various industrial processes; some of the chemicals are carcinogenic. Mineral oils, derived mainly from crude oil, also include suspected mutagens and carcinogens. Fluorosurfactants are ubiquitously used in Teflon, water resistant textiles and fire-fighting foam and are harmful to health as endocrine disruptors. Most leading food (both human and animal) producers monitor for such pollutants; however, their approaches may be limited and not risk based according to a new approach.
The new approach, which is software based, has been devised by Dr. Reiner Wittkowski, who works at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. The institute provides scientific advice to the federal government on issues relating to food safety, product safety, chemical safety, contaminants in the food chain, animal protection and consumer health protection. Central to the approach is a computer model into which different inputs can be added so that the model changes and reacts to changing circumstances.
Once such information is inputted then it is possible for companies to run risk scenario models to explore the health risks to food that different circumstances might present. One such example might be an incident that arise during transport of a foodstuff on its way to a supermarket or to a factor for further processing.
The technology is described in a German publication titled "Contaminants in Foods" (unfortunately the publication is in German). The publication further expands strategies to evaluate the potential health risks. An example with the approach is mapped out for polyfluorinated alkylated substances. These are industrial chemicals that are difficult to degrade and can be detected virtually everywhere in the environment, as with water, dirt and grease.
More about Food, Contaminated food, Chemistry, Microbiology
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