The Global Food System as a Transport Pathway for Hazardous Chemicals: The Missing Link between Emissions and Exposure.

Food is a major pathway for human exposure to hazardous chemicals. The modern food system is becoming increasingly complex and globalised, but models for food-borne exposure typically assume locally derived diets or use concentrations directly measured in foods without accounting for food origin. This may not reflect actual chemical intakes, because concentrations depend on food origin, and representative analysis is seldom available. Processing, packaging, storage and transportation also impart different chemicals to food, and are not yet adequately addressed. Thus, the link between environmental emissions and realistic human exposure is effectively broken. During the present study, the authors discuss the need for a fully integrated treatment of the modern industrialised food system, and propose strategies for using existing models and relevant supporting data sources to track chemicals during production, processing, packaging, storage and transport. Fate and bioaccumulation models describe how chemicals distribute in the environment and accumulate through local food webs. Human exposure models can use concentrations in food to determine body burdens based on individual or population characteristics. New models are now including the impacts of processing and packaging, but are far from comprehensive. The authors propose to close the gap between emissions and exposure by utilising a wider variety of models and data sources, including global food trade data, processing and packaging models. A comprehensive approach that takes into account the complexity of the modern global food system is essential to enable better prediction of human exposure to chemicals in food, sound risk assessments and more focused risk abatement strategies.

Authors: Ng CA, von Goetz N. ;Full Source: Environmental Health Perspectives. 2016 Jul 6. [Epub ahead of print] ;