The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has developed a harmonised framework to use across its scientific panels when evaluating the potential “combined effects” of chemical mixtures in food and feed. The approach gives EFSA’s scientists the tools to follow a mixtures approach when needed, which complements the current EU regulatory requirements for assessing single substances and presents useful findings for communicators and social researchers on both chemical mixtures and chemicals in food more generally.

Prof Christer Hogstrand, Chair of the Chemical Mixtures Working Group, said: “Assessing mixtures works similarly to how we tackle single substances. Normally, we determine first who is exposed — people, farm animals or wildlife such as birds and bees — and by how much. Then, we estimate the toxicity of the mixture or its individual components. Finally, we quantify the risk by comparing combined exposure and combined toxicity.

“Often we add up the doses for common effects to estimate the overall risk. But, sometimes the chemicals ‘interact’, meaning their toxicity increases or decreases. Interactions like these are uncommon overall but need checking particularly if toxicity increases. Our guidance allows us to do this for every mixture we look at.”

An EFSA research study from 2018, also just published, shows that overall in the EU awareness of chemical mixtures among the general public is quite low.

The interactive multimedia tool aims to aid understanding of some of the main issues and concepts, such as “combined exposure” and “combined toxicity”.

EU Insights Chemical Mixtures Awareness, Understanding and Risk Perceptions is available to download.

Last reviewed 4 April 2019