Chemical Contaminants in Foods Understanding Risks

November 18, 2015

CHICAGO—When consumers are deciding which foods to buy, they want to know if the product is safe for their family. Does it contain pesticides or antibiotics, and what about arsenic, lead, or aflatoxins? In the November issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Markus Lipp, senior food safety officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Christina G. Chase, senor scientific writer, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention write about health risks and public perception about chemical contaminants in foods, and helping consumers understand the concept of risk.

What’s important for consumers to understand is that the presence of hazard does not equate to a meaningful or significant risk. If the exposure to this hazard is low enough, the resulting risk can be small with no impact on a person’s health. For example in 2011 news broke that arsenic had been detected in apple juice; yet arsenic is a chemical element that occurs natural in water and soil and does not harm people if the amount ingested is sufficiently low. A potentially poisonous substance is only a poison at high enough doses; thus, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

Hazards can’t be eliminated completely but risk can be controlled. Risk is controlled via regulatory limits and standards designed to protect public health. These limits are enforced using robust surveillance mechanisms in many countries throughout the world.

Read the article in Food Technology here
Watch a Food Facts video on pesticides and toxicology here

About IFT
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 17,000 members from more than 95 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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