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The first generation of novel foods focused primarily on improving agronomic traits for the producer, such as herbicide or pest resistance. The second generation is expected to try to improve food attributes such as nutritional value, colour, texture, flavour or processing properties. Functional foods, in particular, are marketed by using claims of benefits to the consumer. Such claims can be broad, but the efficacy of the benefit and the inherent safety of the product must be demonstrated.

The project will develop new quantitative risk-benefit assessment methodology using three different types of novel foods. The first is a new strain of rice containing a reduced amount of phytic acid, a chemical that blocks the body's adsorption of some vital minerals. It has been made by inducing a mutation leading to a lowered phytic acid content into rice, thereby making the product a second-generation novel foodstuff.

The second is a genetically modified potato with an altered ratio of the inherent, potentially toxic alkaloids. The third is phytosterol which lowers the level of 'bad' cholesterol in blood. Phyto-sterols are currently being produced from soybean or sunflower. A potential new source of phytosterol is rapeseed oil which is used in biofuel production.


A safety protocol for novel foods must guarantee three things: the foods must be safe, of adequate nutritional value and, in the case of functional foods, do what they have been designed to do. These conditions should apply to the normal amounts expected to be consumed.

The project will develop a specific methodology for assessing the safety and claimed benefits of the rice, potatoes and vegetable oil extracts detailed above. These plant products were carefully selected for their potential to pinpoint the effectiveness of the methodology. The procedure goes beyond current methods to create a powerful assessment tool. It will start with a detailed characterisation of the novel foods using genomic and non-targeted profiling techniques. These techniques will enable the determination of 'biomarkers' at an early stage. Such biomarkers can be used in designing the in vitro and animal tests. The design procedures chosen for all tests will aim to produce highly sensitive and specific indicators of both toxic and nutritional factors. In vitro tests (i.e. on human and animal cell cultures) will be performed so as to develop models that could reduce or even replace animal testing in the future.


The quantitative risk assessment methodology will used a probabilistic approach, linking biological data (results of tests) to exposure data (intake of food) through the use of tailored software. Comparison of the anti-nutritional and beneficial effects will provide a quantitative risk/benefit evaluation.

This approach is designed to take on board public opinion and involve the public actively while strengthening consumer confidence by generating sound scientific data. The project will consequently organised and executed a targeted dissemination of its results, widely and accurately.

List of Partners

  • Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research (Denmark)
  • RIKILT, Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen (The Netherlands)
  • Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee (UK)
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
  • Technical University Munich (Germany)
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK)
  • Zheijang University, Hangzhou (China)
  • MAPP, Aarhus School of Business (Denmark)
  • National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research (Italy)
  • Raisio Benecol (Finland)
  • University of Bonn (Germany)
  • National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (The Netherlands)
  • University of Ottawa (Canada)
Full title:
Quantitative risk assessment strategies for novel foods
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Morten Paulsen,
EC Scientific Officer:
Ebba Barany,
EU contribution:
€ 2.7M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top