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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



We are all exposed to metals via food, water and air. The effect that toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium have on human health has triggered action. PHIME is an EU research project that will assess the health impact of metals: sources, benefits, toxicity and some possible solutions.

PHIME's strategic objective is to develop an integrated health risk assessment of long-term, low-level environmental exposure to toxic and essential metals. This process will be conducted with an emphasis on the exposure and interaction of these metals, and how this affects humans, and in particular vulnerable groups such as children, women, the elderly and individuals with genetic susceptibilities.


The PHIME researchers seek to offer a greater insight into how metals influence the human body, where the exposure occurs geographically and what can be done in order to reduce metals in plants, thereby improving the human food chain. At the end of the day, this understanding will help researchers and the food industry provide foods of better quality that are safer for consumption, thus reducing any health risks and curbing the economic burden on the healthcare systems.

Key to the success of this project is PHIME's unique multidisciplinary and integrated approach. With strong scientific backgrounds from national, European and international levels, the PHIME consortium will launch a robust and effective communication system, both locally and abroad, to ensure the success of the project. The partners work with a network of researchers from EU Member States, Associated and Candidate Countries, and developing countries to promote knowledge exchange. Results of the project's work are to be disseminated to the EC services, national agencies, mass media (including the Internet) and consumers.

Moreover, the project meets the objectives of Priority 5 in the EU. In pursuit of a 'farm-to-fork' and a 'pollution source-to-hospital' approach, PHIME will explore how metals consumed through food and drinking water, as well as through environmental exposure, affect human health. This information is of value for risk assessment and management. It can provide an improved basis for decision-making and for ascertaining tolerable levels of elements, particularly with regard to metals in crop plants.

PHIME is innovative in its approach, as it seeks to build on earlier research efforts that were concerned with how toxic metals affect the environment, and food in particular. PHIME will effectively develop and evaluate new tools for biomonitoring exposure and effects, and will advance the foundation for risk assessment and management.

Tackling exposure to metals will effectively impact large numbers of the population in the aforementioned countries. By promoting health protection, safety and information, PHIME will give citizens the impetus they need to live longer and better lives.

List of Partners

  • Lund University (Sweden)
  • Institute Jozef Stefan (Slovenia)
  • Institute of Child Health (Greece)
  • Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
  • Umeå University (Sweden)
  • Institute for Biomedical Research, Kaunas University (Lithuania)
  • Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium)
  • Ministry of Health and Social Services (Seychelles)
  • National Institute of Public Health (Czech Republic)
  • University of Ulster Coleraine (UK)
  • Oikon (Croatia)
  • Oy Jurilab (Finland)
  • Regional Authority of Public Health Banská Bystrica (Slovakia)
  • Faroese Hospital System (Faroe Islands)
  • International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (Bangladesh)
  • University of Udine (Italy)
  • University Medical Centre, Ljubljana (Slovenia)
  • University of Brescia (Italy)
  • University of Fudan (China)
  • University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)
  • Institute of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, Sosnowiec (Poland)
  • University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • University of Aarhus (Denmark)
  • Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie (Germany)
  • University of Southampton (UK)
  • Universität Zürich (Switzerland)
  • University of Heidelberg (Germany)
  • University of Bayreuth (Germany)
  • University of York (UK)
  • Institute of Ecology of Industrial Areas (Poland)
  • Warsaw University (Poland)
  • University of Rochester (USA)
  • University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah (Morocco)
  • Institute of High Energy Physics (China)
  • Institute for Development of Production and Work Environment (Ecuador)
  • University of Kuopio (Finland)
  • University of Aarhus (Denmark)
Full title:
Public health impact of long-term, low-level mixed element exposure in susceptible population strata
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Staffan Skerfving, Lund University,
EC Scientific Officer:
Valérie Rolland,
EU contribution:
€ 13.4M
Integrated project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top