archive image

European Commission

Food Quality and Safety in Europe banner

Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Recent major crises in the European food market have affected consumer trust in food safety, and more particularly in seafood, which has been associated with major food poisoning outbreaks. Decision-makers and consumers now wish to be more informed and aware of food characteristics or production practices before legislating or making eating choices, respectively. Yet quality assessment requires risk/benefit analyses of foods, which then need to be converted into a common denominator. In this context, the QALIBRA project is working on the 'net health impacts' of seafood and functional foods. The models - accessible and adapted to the needs of all stakeholders - will be made available on web-based software.


QALIBRA is developing a general framework for risk/ benefit analysis of foodstuffs. The project provides specific information on the overall health impacts of different foods, via the development of a raft of quantitative methods for assessing and integrating beneficial and adverse effects of foods. Methods for risk/benefit analysis of environmental factors detrimental to health are defined - be they chemical, biological, physical or linked to the food chain. The methods should be a basis for policy decisions on how to prevent or minimise effects and risks.

The tools are applicable to combined exposures of authorised substances, including the impact of local environmental disasters and pollution on the safety of foodstuffs. Emphasis is placed on the cumulative risks and health impacts of environmental pollutants, including long-term effects and exposure to small doses. International epidemiological data shows that the most clearly identified consumer risks derive either from human enteric viruses that contaminate bivalve molluscs, or from pathogenic bacteria that form biogenic amines in certain fish products. The impact on endocrine disrupters is also considered, particularly in sensitive consumer groups such as children.

The primary focus is the setting up of a general framework for studying the risks and benefits of selected food groups. However, QALIBRA's techniques and software can also be applied to other direct environmental exposures, via air, soil and water.

As a result, the assessment tools can also be applied to nutrients and bioactive compounds, as well as to environmental contaminants. The evaluation of dose-response models and the identification of suitable methods for characterising the main types of uncertainty affecting food risk/benefit assessments are tested and evaluated in case studies including both seafood and functional foods.

Integrating adverse and beneficial health effects

Oily fish have been selected for seafood because their consumption presents both benefits such as the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk and risks such as cancers and developmental effects. Functional food products enriched with phytostanols and phytosterols are also studied in contrast with these traditional food products.

Study results generate highly innovative and improved means of assessing and integrating health benefits, risks and uncertainties associated with fish and other functional foods. The targeted dissemination of these results helps reinforce the competitiveness of European food industries. These industries are provided with advanced information on the overall health impacts of different foods and on production practices - in other words, they are given extra means to meet consumer demands for healthy foods.

Decision makers, industrialists and consumers foresee the upcoming foodrelated challenges of the 21st century. Reducing obesity and increasing physical activity to protect the health of consumers is definitely one of them. Guaranteeing the regular availability of diverse sustainable and healthy food in sufficient quantity is another.

List of Partners

  • Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories (Iceland)
  • Central Science Laboratory (UK)
  • National Institute of Public Health and The Environment (The Netherlands)
  • Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
  • University of Patras (Greece)
  • Altagra Business Service (Hungary)
Full title:
Quality of life - integrated benefit and risk analysis web-based tool for assessing food safety and health benefits
Contract n:
Project co-ordinator:
Eva Yngvadottir, Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories,
EC Scientific Officer:
Maria Spulber,
EU contribution:
€ 1.9M
Specific Targeted Research Project

Back to list

Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top