Committed to combating contaminants
Safe food often means food that is free of contaminants. Consolidated production and distribution chains filter out sub-standard and contaminated produce. However, they are not perfect and sometimes fail to detect harmful contaminants. Paradoxically, the consequences of such rare breakdowns can be the rapid spread of contaminated food products owing to the interconnectedness of modern supply chains.
This means that it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that contamination does not occur and to detect and react to it rapidly if and when it does.
Pure and simple
The complex web of global supply systems requires stringent quality control at every link in the chain, as well as efficient and effective cross-border co-operation.
EU-backed research aims to improve Europe’s capacity to detect both existing and emerging contaminants, quarantine them, and deal with possible outbreaks.
The recently formed European Food Safety Authority seeks to ensure the quality of European food, and Union-funded research is supporting its mission with relevant, state-of-the-art research.
Uniting against chemical disruptors
Understanding the health risks of chemical pollutants in food is a complex, multidisciplinary task, and European research in this important field is currently fragmented. CASCADE aims to integrate efforts from across Europe to build a better understanding of endocrine disrupting chemicals. These affect hormone receptors in the cell nucleus and can have serious effects on physical development and health (for example, that of brain or reproductive functions). The project will also study the biological markers produced in response to them.
Under the CASCADE umbrella, researchers will carry out multidisciplinary investigations spanning such scientific areas as physiology, chemistry and toxicology to tackle the problem on multiple fronts.
Recipes for safe cooking
In 2002, Swedish scientists found disturbingly high levels of a carcinogen called acrylamide in certain cooked foods, including chips and crisps. In response, the EU set up a database on research activities in the field, while the World Health Organisation established an international network of researchers.
The Commission is contributing to this global effort with the three-year HEATOX project which brings together scientists from 14 countries. It aims to help fill the knowledge gap on acrylamide, and to find out about other substances that are formed during the cooking of starchy foods.