By Wendelyn Jones
Institute for the Advancement of Food Sciences and Nutrition
While IAFNS continues its research on pathogens in low-moisture foods recently covered in Food Safety News, there are other elements of our food security program that provide public benefits. In particular, IAFNS addresses heavy metals through several programs that reflect input from university, industry, and government advisors – the triad informing IAFNS governance and activities as we advance the sciences of food safety and The nutrition.
A framework for reducing heavy metal exposure in human diets — Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic are ubiquitous in the environment due to natural occurrence (eg, in agricultural soils) and human activities. Heavy metals can sometimes unavoidably enter the food supply through various pathways, including soil, water, and air, as well as through agricultural practices.
In line with the US FDA’s ‘Closer to Zero’ initiative to reduce toxic elements in foods for infants and young children, the IAFNS Food and Chemical Safety Committee has launched complementary research projects that aim to develop a framework to reduce exposure to heavy metals in food. Elements of the framework will include current and future metal/commodity prioritization, concentration ranges, exposure assessments, agricultural practices, and mitigation options throughout production and supply chains.
Review of regulatory reference values and background levels for heavy metals in human food — The US FDA has identified dietary exposure to heavy metals as a public health concern, with a particular focus on arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. One way to assess exposure risk is to compare established safe exposure limits (reference values) with current population-based dietary levels. in a recent article, baseline dietary exposure and reference value information was rapidly evaluated and updated. These new consumer and regulatory levels inform a novel, interactive, web-based tool that can be used for screening level assessments of potential risks of heavy metals in foods and ingredients.
Dietary Metal Exposure Screening Tool— It is important to apply the best available scientific tools to assess potential hazards such as metals, particularly when they reach food from agricultural soils and other media. The Committee prioritized the development of a heavy metal screening tool to provide additional risk context for exposure to five heavy metals found in foods and ingredients. IAFNS and the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) collaborated to develop a new, easy-to-use, online dietary metal exposure screening tool that is hosted on the JIFSAN website www.foodrisk.org . This tool is designed to be used by risk assessors and managers to quickly assess the potential risk to public health when faced with the detection of selected heavy metals in foods and food ingredients. It is important to note that this tool is only one part of a comprehensive decision-making process. An older version of the tool and supporting publication is available. here.
Mitigation Strategies —To help address the risks posed by metals, new projects include identifying which foods contain the highest levels of these metals; and based on the consumption of these foods in the US by age group, which combinations of foods and metals cause the greatest potential exposure through diet. East research examine which foods contain the highest levels of heavy metals; and based on the consumption of these foods in the US by different age groups, which food and metal dyads cause the greatest human exposure.
getting to the cases — IAFNS is also supporting some rice and spinach case studies. Rice can be a source of arsenic and other elemental toxins (eg, mercury and cadmium) in the human diet. Spinach may also be an important source of the highly toxic metals cadmium and lead, as well as other chemicals with negative health implications, but the processes that lead to levels of concern in spinach differ from those in rice.
This additional novelty Project will aim to design a multi-part adaptive scoring system as a basis for prioritization of mitigating factors. This system will take into account differences in commodities, metal combinations, soil-plant interactions and geochemistry, processing methods, and the impact of these terms on the mean and variability of metal concentrations of interest.
IAFNS continues to track food safety issues in line with valuable input from our advisers and members from academia, industry, and government. Learn more about IAFNS food safety research here and how we seek to create positive change throughout the food and beverage ecosystem.
The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences is committed to leading positive change throughout the food and beverage ecosystem. IAFNS is a science-focused 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization uniquely positioned to mobilize government, industry, and academia to drive, fund, and lead actionable research. iafns.org
About the Author: Wendelyn Jones, PhD, is executive director of the Institute for Advancing Food and Nutritional Sciences (IAFNS). She is passionate about bridging science and society, drawing on her global experiences working in the chemical, agricultural, food and health sectors. She applies her Ph.D. in life sciences to further IAFNS’s contribution and impact within diverse health and scientific communities.
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