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Benefit-risk assessment for food: an iterative value-of-information approach

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Better assessment of food safety risks

An EU-funded initiative took a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to tackle contemporary food safety and risk issues. Project outcomes set the base for an improved and more scientific means of handling aspects of food crises.


Efforts to shed further light on risks of food and contaminants as well as on health benefits call for better methods of evaluation. The latter must necessarily be built on information in the form of integrated data for measurement as well as applicability to various groups of interest. These aspects formed the basis and objectives of the 'Benefit-risk assessment for food: An iterative value-of-information approach' (Beneris) project. The interdisciplinary consortium, bringing expertise from fields including epidemiology, toxicology, nutrition science, exposure assessment and risk analysis, worked to develop methods based on integrated epidemiological and toxicological data. Partners first focused on infants’ consumption of fish and vegetables to develop their envisioned methodology for estimating health effects of contaminants and nutrients. As such, they also sought to examine variability in area, age and gender among subpopulations. Data collection for purposes of benefit-risk analyses (BRAs) placed particular emphasis on the applicability and simplicity of the data structure for existing databases as well as data produced within the project. Work on the design of the Beneris data repository also facilitated development of the Opasnet base. This Internet tool affords the means to collect, organise and share information relevant to food BRAs. Collaboration with various related projects resulted in one developing a tiered framework for risk-benefit assessments, as well as contributions in the area of assessments to the Opasnet base. In addition, Beneris methods and tools were offered to other projects, some of which took on the task of developing new functionalities for the website, thus strengthening project resources. Given the easier means of producing credible assessments, project outcomes stand to boost the science–policy interface and offer better informed decision-making for healthier food consumption, thereby hopefully averting potential future food crises.

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28 September 2017