Chemical risk assessment

Anton Alldrick, Special Projects Manager

We have launched a risk assessment service, based on computer models, to assess the hazard of chemicals and identify if a contaminant could potentially pose a risk to human health. This in--silico service will be particularly suitable for ingredient manufacturers, food processors, packaging companies and anyone working in new product development.

Listen to Anton Alldrick to learn how it can help you.

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Food businesses generally commission chemical analyses for three principal reasons, and they all revolve around conformity. The first reason may be to demonstrate, for example, that a foods nutritional composition correlates with what's on the label. A second aspect is when there is evidence of nonconformity, for example taint. So, in those cases a food business may well want to identify what contaminants, what the tainting compound is, how much is there, and then carrying out a risk assessment to decide what to do next. The third area is an increasing one, it is to look at the question of unknown knowns. When food is produced it's a very chemically complex system so when we process food there's a lot of chemical reactions taking place and then once it's packaged again it's not inert, there's more chemical reactions going on and some of those reactions may be producing compounds which are of interest and so food businesses may well then commission analyses to look at those types of compounds.

For a number of compounds the authorities have set limits which differentiate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, these are often referred to as maximum residue limits or MRLs. However, in the majority of cases no such information is available and, therefore, it's necessary to carry out an additional risk assessment.

What differentiates Camden BRI from many other laboratories is that we can provide the additional service, so not only can we analyse and test for the presence of a particular compound but we can also provide information to a food business to assess the risk that might present to a consumer. In a number of cases there is evidence within the literature as to the toxicological status of that compound and then that is a relatively easy exercise to determine how much would be considered to be safe or how much would be considered to be a toxicological concern. However, for a large number of chemicals no such information is available and then we have to revert to computer modelling to determine what the risk presented by that compound is. This approach is often referred to as in silico toxicology and it's based on the concept called quantitative structural activity relationships or QSAR and QSAR actually looks at the chemical structure of a compound and compares it with other compounds of similar structures and from that it's possible to extrapolate the toxicological significance of the compound. Once we have that information we can provide it to the business they can then use that in their risk assessments and they can determine whether they consider the presence of that compound in food to be safe, whether the level is safe but they wish to optimise their processing to reduce it even further or if it's at levels which are of concern then it may be necessary for them to undertake a product withdrawal or recall.

Campden BRI has recently reviewed the offerings that we can make in terms of risk assessment and has invested in reviewing what is available in the market in terms of in silico software and, as a result, we've upgraded our resources this means now we can give a much more detailed and comprehensive approach to the issue for compounds for which those little or no toxicological data.

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