Increased public demand for safe chemicals combined with a strong pressure from society to reduce the number of animals used in research poses a dilemma for all persons working in the areas of toxicology and risk assessment. A total of 322 million tons of chemicals were produced in Europe in 2013 (1), many of which reach the environment and food chain, potentially causing harm in humans. Chemicals can also migrate from food contact materials into the foods, as wrapping of the foods increases. In addition most foods are processed, prepared or preserved for storage in some way, e.g. cooking, pasteurisation, fermentation, or drying. This leads to the formation of new compounds that are not present in the raw material. Some of these compounds have been identified and shown to be hazardous to humans, and are often referred to as food processing contaminants.

Toxicologists are designing new concepts to cope with the large number of chemicals introduced by the industry and concerns by the general public about health effects of combined exposures to low levels of chemicals in their day-to-day life. A paradigm shift within toxicology is taking place. Instead of testing all new chemicals in experiments, the focus are shifting towards predictive toxicity using computer based methods (computer toxicology) based on already existing knowledge. Computer toxicology is also a promising approach to address toxicity of mixtures of chemicals, since testing of these mixtures in animal models will be very costly and will require large number of experimental animals. However, computer toxicology must rely on a solid database of response data, and experimental data are needed for validation of models and for chemicals where not experimental data exist.

  1. Eurostat 2014, Available from: explained/index.php/Chemicals_production_statistics#Total_production_of_chemicals.