Glossary

This multilingual glossary provides easy-to-understand definitions for the main scientific terms used on this website in the risk assessment domain. Terms and their definitions are referenced in our communication products as pop-up notes to explain concepts to the public with no specialist knowledge.
Standard English spelling is used throughout. Acronyms are capitalised. Terms are presented in lower case. Entries are translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The glossary is a living document subject to regular updates. Relevant missing terms may be suggested by using the Ask EFSA online form.

Disclaimer: Definitions in the glossary are intended solely to help this website's users understand scientific terminology. Definitions may differ from those given in European Union legislation and in the EFSA Journal.
 

  • An estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without presenting an appreciable risk to health. It is usually expressed as milligrams of the substance per kilogram of body weight and applies to chemical substances such as food additives, pesticide residues and veterinary drugs.

  • A substance that acts against harmful organisms, such as pests or diseases, which affect plants.

  • A one-off or very short term exposure to a substance, usually less than 24 hours.

  • A dietary recommendation used when there isn't enough data to calculate an average requirement. An adequate intake is the average nutrient level consumed daily by a typical healthy population that is assumed to be adequate for the population's needs.

  • ADI

    The acceptable daily intake (ADI) is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without presenting an appreciable risk to health. It is usually expressed as milligrams of the substance per kilogram of body weight and applies to chemical substances such as food additives, pesticide residues and veterinary drugs.

  • An abbreviation for "absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion", the four key processes which describe how drugs and chemicals get into the body, what happens to them while they are there, and how they are eliminated

  • A change in the health, growth, behaviour or development of an organism that impairs its ability to develop or survive

  • A method of visualising a chain of events linked by causality that may lead to a harmful outcome for organisms or the environment.

  • AI

    The adequate intake (AI) is a dietary recommendation used when there isn't enough data to calculate an Average Requirement. An AI is the average nutrient level consumed daily by a typical healthy population which is assumed to be adequate for the population's needs.

  • A normally harmless substance, such as an ingredient in a foodstuff, that causes an (immediate) allergic reaction in a susceptible person.

  • The ability to trigger an abnormal immune response that leads to an allergic reaction in a person.

  • A method which can be used in research to replace traditional animal testing with non-invasive methods or substitution. See also replacement, reduction and refinement (3Rs).

  • The constituent block that makes up proteins. Some can be produced by the human body whereas others can be obtained only through the diet.

  • A technique used to make an exact genetic copy of an animal.

  • A method involving animals or animal cells that tests how a substance or diet might cause ill-health in humans.

  • Standardised ways of assessing animal welfare based on animal responses.

  • Describes a substance that acts in opposition to another substance, thus cancelling out its effect; for example, a hormone that, when released in the body, prevents another hormone from working.

  • The ability of microbes to grow in the presence of substances specifically designed to kill them; for example, some human infections are now resistant to antibiotics, raising concerns about their widespread use.

  • A field of science which studies the impact of toxic substances on water life (e.g. fish, crustaceans, aquatic plants and algae).

  • AR

    The average requirement (AR) is the level of a nutrient in the diet that meets the daily needs of half the people in a typical healthy population.

  • The level of a nutrient in the diet that meets the daily needs of half the people in a typical healthy population.

  • A collective name for the offspring of bees from a single hatch.

  • The minimum dose of a substance that produces a clear, low level health risk, usually in the range of a 1-10% change in a specific toxic effect such as cancer induction.

  • A standard way of measuring how a substance (e.g. a vitamin, hormone or fertiliser) has affected an organism or a tissue within that organism.

  • A term to describe how much of a substance gets into the blood through a variety of routes, including the diet. It may refer to vitamins, additives, pesticides or medicines.

  • A preparation of one or more active substances (see definition) designed to use chemicals or other means to kill or halt the actions of harmful organisms such as plant diseases or animal infections.

  • A term used to describe the variety of living organisms existing in a specific environment.

  • An umbrella term for biological studies that use computer programming as part of their methodology. Bioinformatics combines computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to study and process biological data. See also Transcriptomics, Proteomics and Metabolomics.

  • An event or occurrence is defined as having biological relevance if its size or implications are likely to have consequences for human health.

  • A characteristic that is objectively measured and can be viewed as an indicator of a normal biological process, a disease process, or a typical response to a drug or therapy; for example, blood pressure.

  • BMD

    The benchmark dose (BMD) is the minimum dose of a substance that produces a clear, low level health risk, usually in the range of a 1-10% change in a specific toxic effect such as cancer induction.

  • BMI

    The body mass index (BMI) is a measurement that expresses the relationship between an individual’s weight and height. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared (i.e. height x height). Used to assess whether someone’s weight is appropriate.

  • A measurement that expresses the relationship between an individual’s weight and height. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared (i.e. height x height). Used to assess whether someone’s weight is appropriate.

  • A substance, used either as a food or a medicine, derived from plants, fungi, algae or lichens.

  • A structured programme to improve a population of plants or animals by breeding for certain characteristics.

  • How a disease affects a population in terms of ill-health, risk of death, financial cost of treatment or other recognised indicators.

  • A family of nutritional substances that includes sugars, starches and fibres.

  • Cancer-causing property of a substance when an animal or human is exposed to it.

  • Health hazard resulting from exposure to a chemical; for example, irritation, burns, carcinogenicity.

  • Mixtures of substances in which each chemical may have a separate identifiable effect on the body and/or a combined effect.

  • Tiny amounts of chemicals found in foodstuffs which have been exposed to pesticides, environmental toxins or related products.

  • A long-term constant or intermittent exposure to a substance which may have an impact on health over time.

  • Genetically-conferred resistance in an organism (e.g. the resistance of a plant to a disease) that results from two or more linked genes being passed down the generations.

  • Required in law, an assessment designed to compare the safety of a genetically modified (GM) organism against its non-GM bred counterpart.

  • the period when complementary foods are given to an infant together with either breast milk or formula or both.

  • can be beverages, spoon-fed pureed foods, spoon-fed lumpy foods or finger foods, either prepared at home or produced commercially.

  • A statistical term to describe a range within a distribution where you would expect most of the data to lie; for example, expecting that 95% of adults will be between 1.4m and 1.9m tall.

  • An estimate that tends to err on the side of caution or gives a 'worst case scenario'. Often used in risk assessment to ensure that as much risk as possible is taken into account.

  • Any substance occurring in foodstuffs that was not added intentionally. Contaminants can arise from packaging, food processing and transportation, farming practices or the use of animal medicines. The term does not include contamination from insects or rodents.

  • A statistical term to describe the relationship between two variables (e.g. calcium intake and bone growth).

  • The adverse effect seen at the lowest dose when a vulnerable population is exposed to a substance such as an environmental or food toxin. This can relate to humans as well as to other species such as animals, plants or microbes.

  • The process by which microbes are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effect.

  • A situation where an allergic reaction to one substance also leads to an allergic reaction to another substance. This is usually because the allergens (e.g. peanuts and tree nuts) possess similar characteristics which trigger the body's immune defences.

  • Chemicals that are considered as a group because they are likely to act on the body in the same way.

  • A term used to describe how exposure to more than one chemical might affect the body. Used to explain long-term exposure to mixtures of chemicals, such as pesticides or additives.

  • A method of assessing risks to health or the environment posed by multiple substances such as chemicals.

  • A lack of a necessary factor in, for example, the diet or the environment which results in harm to the growth of an organism.

  • Chemical that is formed when a substance breaks down or decomposes.

  • A way of describing how quickly a substance (e.g. pollution in a river) will break down and be eliminated from an environment.

  • the maturation of bodily functions necessary to metabolise ‘non-milk foods’, i.e. other than breast-milk or formula, and the neurodevelopmental changes necessary for safe and effective progression from suckling to spoon- and self-feeding, including the infant’s apparent emerging interest in non-milk foods and feeding.

  • Any adverse effect on the development of the unborn, babies, infants or children when exposed to a toxic substance.

  • For the purposes of risk assessment, measurement of the amount of a substance consumed by a person or animal in their diet that is intentionally added or unintentionally present (e.g. a nutrient, additive or pesticide).

  • The complete set of reference values for nutrient intake comprising Population Reference Intakes (PRI), Average Requirements (AR), Adequate Intakes (AI), Lower Threshold Intakes (LTI) and Reference Intakes (RI). DRVs are typically used as a basis for reference values in food labelling and for establishing food-based dietary guidelines.

  • Persistent, chlorine-containing organic pollutant which occurs as by-product of industrial processes. It can accumulate in the food chain and pose a serious public and environmental health risk.

  • An excess of disease cases compared to what would be normally expected in a population. An outbreak may occur in a restricted geographical area, or may extend over several countries. It may last for a few days or weeks, or for several years.

  • DNA

    A complex chain-like molecule that carries the genetic material, present in living organisms and some viruses. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is capable of copying itself and carries the instructions for all the proteins used to create and sustain life.

  • The exact order of units in a DNA chain.

  • The total amount of a substance (e.g. a chemical or nutrient) given to, consumed or absorbed by an individual organism, population or ecosystem.

  • A process to establish the response of organisms to a mixture of chemicals with similar toxicity. This involves adding up their individual effects to predict the likely impact of the overall mixture.

  • The relationship between the amount of a substance to which an individual organism, population or ecosystem is exposed and the way in which it responds (e.g. in terms of toxicity).

  • DRV

    Dietary reference values (DRVs) are the complete set of reference values for nutrient intake comprising Population Reference Intakes (PRI), Average Requirements (AR), Adequate Intakes (AI), Lower Threshold Intakes (LTI) and Reference Intakes (RI). DRVs are typically used as a basis for reference values in food labelling and for establishing food-based dietary guidelines.

  • A number used in the European Union to identify permitted food additives. An E number means that an additive has passed safety tests and has been approved for use.

  • The return of a population or ecosystem to a pre-defined status after a disturbance to its normal activities (e.g. exposure to a toxin or pest, or a change in food supply). 

  • Risk management option accepting some level of effect from exposure to a chemical, biological or physical stressor in a population or ecosystem if ecological recovery takes place.

  • Risk management option accepting a negligible level of effect from exposure to a chemical, biological or physical stressor in a population or ecosystem.

  • A community of living organisms in conjunction with non-living components (e.g. air, water and mineral soil). A healthy ecosystem is a finely balanced system where animals, plants and microbes live in harmony with their environment.

  • Benefits to human or animal populations provided by an ecosystem, such as food or fuel provision, natural medicinal ingredients, and maintenance of soil fertility.

  • The study of the adverse impacts of substances, particularly chemicals, in relation to the environment and public health.

  • How well something works in relation to predefined standards or expectations.

  • A risk to human, animal or plant health resulting from a new source or increased susceptibility or exposure to an existing source.

  • Consistently present in a population or region, whether dormant or active as measured by clinical tests.

  • Chemical that can interact with the body's endocrine (hormone) system. 

  • A substance that adversely affects the endocrine (hormone) system leading to negative effects for organisms and/or their offspring.

  • Describes substances which naturally occur within the body; for example, cholesterol.

  • A physical or chemical outcome that can be assessed by a test; for example, blood pressure or levels of a potential toxin in the body.

  • The process of assessing potential harm to the environment caused by a substance, activity or natural occurrence. This may include the introduction of GM plants, the use of pesticides, or the spread of plant pests.

  • The negative impact of a substance or activity (e.g. chemicals, GM crop introduction) on a population of animals, plants or microbes in the environment (e.g. water, soil).

  • A protein which stimulates or hastens a specific reaction in the body; for example, digestive enzymes help to break down food into nutrients.

  • A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.

  • A measurement which identifies how widespread and potent a hazard is in a population, or which acts as an indicator of risk to human health; for example, poor hygiene ratings in food outlets acting as a proxy for risk of food poisoning.

  • The study of how often diseases and other health conditions occur in different groups of people and why. It includes the study of health-related measurements (e.g. pesticide exposure or vitamin deficiency) in a population and how they may influence the risk of ill health.

  • ERA

    Environmental risk assessment (ERA) is the process of assessing potential harm to the environment caused by a substance, activity or natural occurrence. This may include the introduction of GM plants, the use of pesticides, or the spread of plant pests.

  • Any substance which a living organism must consume from the diet in order to support normal health, development and growth.

  • The name given to policies and laws in Europe which collectively protect the consumer.

  • Describes substances within the human body which have arisen from an external source in the diet or environment; for example, veterinary medicine residues.

  • Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time.

  • One of the key steps in risk assessment, this relates to a thorough evaluation of who, or what, has been exposed to a hazard and a quantification of the amounts involved.

  • A protein which is made to a particular DNA recipe. Typically used to mean a protein generated as a consequence of the genetic manipulation of an organism.

  • Product intentionally added to animal feed to improve: i) the quality of the feeds ii) the quality of the food products obtained from animals; iii) animal performance and health.

  • Test conducted on crops to establish how much pesticide remains after normal farming practices and for how long pesticides and their residues persist in the crops. The test results are used to inform rules about permitted amounts of pesticide residues in foodstuffs.

  • Ingredient added to foodstuffs to alter their flavour or odour.

  • Breast milk substitute aimed at infants who have commenced complementary feeding (i.e. the introduction of solid foods at or around 6 months of age).

  • A substance deliberately added to foods or beverages for beneficial technological reasons (e.g. to preserve, flavour, colour or ensure a particular texture). Food additives are not normally consumed by themselves nor used as typical ingredients in food.

  • Any material, typically packaging or kitchen equipment, designed to come into contact with foodstuffs.

  • Foodstuff containing concentrated amounts of nutrients or other substances that are intended to supplement the normal diet.

  • Science-based recommendations for healthy eating which translate numerical nutrition targets into lay advice on what foods to eat.

  • An illness caused by foods or drinks which have been contaminated by toxins or harmful microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses).

  • Two or more people developing the same foodborne illness after eating or drinking the same food.

  • A type of health claim which infers that a nutrient or food ingredient can influence the maintenance of normal human health or performance, or support weight control.

  • Genetic variation between and within species.

  • An organism which contains genetic material that has been deliberately altered and which does not occur naturally through breeding or selection.

  • The entire amount of genetic material found in the cells of living organisms.

  • When a substance is capable of damaging the DNA in cells.

  • A method of visualising one or more genes in a living organism. It is often used as a means to understand a particular trait.

  • A recognised way of categorising closely related species of organisms. The genus is the first part of the Latin name of a species; for example, Homo Sapiens (human being) is part of the genus Homo.

  • GLP

    Good laboratory practice (GLP) is a standardised way of planning, performing and reporting laboratory-based studies to ensure a high standard of quality and reliability.

  • protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The symptoms of coeliac disease are triggered by the ingestion of gluten.

  • GMO

    A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism which contains genetic material that has been deliberately altered and which does not occur naturally through breeding or selection.

  • Other organism that is not genetically modified but which may interact with, or be affected by, the presence of a GM organism.

  • GMP

    A good manufacturing practice (GMP) is any practice regarding the conditions and measures necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the food chain.

  • A standardised way of operating which ensures that foodstuffs are produced safely and hygienically.

  • A standardised way of planning, performing and reporting laboratory-based studies to ensure a high standard of quality and reliability.

  • Any practice regarding the conditions and measures necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the food chain.

  • A hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) is a system that identifies, evaluates and controls hazards to food safety. It is implemented by food businesses to ensure safe production, storage and transport of food.

  • The time required for 50% of a substance present in an individual, population or ecosystem to break down or be eliminated naturally. It is often used to describe the disappearance of potentially harmful substances such as chemical toxins.

  • A substance or activity which has the potential to cause adverse effects to living organisms or environments.

  • A system that identifies, evaluates and controls hazards to food safety. It is implemented by food businesses to ensure safe production, storage and transport of food.

  • The second step in risk assessment, this involves defining the nature of the adverse health effects associated with biological, chemical and physical agents which may be present in food. The process should, if possible, involve an understanding of the doses involved and related responses.

  • The first step in risk assessment, this involves the identification of biological, chemical, and physical agents capable of causing adverse health effects.

  • Any practice (e.g. a statement or visual) used in food marketing to suggest that health benefits can be gained from consuming a given food, nutrient or ingredient.

  • Guidance on safe consumption of substances that takes into account current safety data, uncertainties in these data, and the likely duration of consumption.

  • An approach to risk assessment that takes into account the complexities of real life situations.

  • A plant on which a pest lives or by which it is nourished.

  • A direct measurement of the level of toxic chemical compounds present in the body. Often, these measurements are made using blood and urine.

  • A term to describe the myriad ways that animals and humans can interact, thus establishing a route for diseases to be transmitted (e.g. through foodstuffs or contaminated environments).

  • Any adverse effect on the immune system (e.g. allergy or inflammation) that results from exposure to toxic substances.

  • Any foreign body present in a food or feed which may arise due to errors in manufacturing, storage or transportation.

  • Research theoretical method, particularly involving computer models, to predict the likely toxicological, or other, effects of substances.

  • Research method which involves testing cells or tissues extracted from living organisms.

  • Research method which involves testing individual live animals or populations of live animals.

  • The number of new events occurring within a specified time period within a defined geographical area; for example, the number of flu cases per year in Europe.

  • Any substance deliberately added to a foodstuff which will remain in the finished product, even in an altered form.

  • Chemical that does not generally contain carbon; for example, water, oxygen, sodium chloride.

  • A substance that kills insects.

  • The amount of a substance (e.g. nutrient or chemical) that is ingested by a person or animal via the diet.

  • A reaction to a substance that is not caused by an immune response. Intolerances are more common than allergies but are less serious.

  • Animal, plant or other organism introduced by man into places out of its natural range of distribution.

  • Treatment of foodstuffs with radiation (e.g. X-rays) as a means of killing potentially harmful bacteria.

  • A single substance or culture of microbes obtained in pure form from a mixture of substances or bacteria.

  • The lowest concentration of a substance that can be detected using standard tests but which is too small to be measured with certainty.

  • The lowest concentration of a substance that can be measured with certainty using standard tests.

  • Fat and fat-like substance.

  • The lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) is the lowest level of a substance that has been observed to cause harm in an exposed population.

  • LOD

    A limit of detection (LOD) is the lowest concentration of a substance that can be detected using standard tests but which is too small to be measured with certainty.

  • LOQ

    The limit of quantification (LOQ) is lowest concentration of a substance that can be measured with certainty using standard tests.

  • Effect which occurs at low doses of a substance, i.e. below those doses traditionally used for toxicological studies.

  • An estimate of the minimum exposure to a potentially harmful substance, normally zero, which takes into account normal consumption of food which contains negligible amounts of the substance.

  • The lowest level of a substance that has been observed to cause harm in an exposed population.

  • A calorie-containing component of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) which is needed in significant quantities for normal growth, development and maintenance of health.

  • A tool used in risk assessment to explore safety concerns arising from the presence of a potentially toxic substance in food or animal feed.

  • The gap between the actual intake of a substance by a given population and the estimated daily dose over a lifetime that experts consider to be safe.

  • The maximum amount of a contaminant, naturally occurring toxin or nutrient allowed in foods or animal feeds.

  • The maximum amount of a pesticide residue allowed in foods or animal feeds, expressed as milligrams per kilogram.

  • The process by which a substance produces an effect on a living organism.

  • The specific sequence of events explaining how a substance causes a toxic effect.

  • A statistical method which enables the results of similar studies to be pooled in order to determine any significant trends.

  • The total sum of physical and chemical processes that occur within living organisms.

  • Substance formed as a consequence of metabolism in an organism.

  • The study of an organism's metabolic state through the systematic analysis of its metabolites within cells or biological fluids (e.g. blood, urine).

  • Nutrient required by the body in tiny amounts for normal growth, development and maintenance of health; for example, vitamins and minerals.

  • A naturally occurring inorganic element (e.g. calcium, iron) that is needed in the diet for normal growth, development and health.

  • A sequence of events, identified by research, which explains an observed effect.

  • MOE

    The margin of exposure (MOE) is a tool used in risk assessment to explore safety concerns arising from the presence of a potentially toxic substance in food or animal feed.

  • A way of identifying specific strains of organisms by looking at their genetic material. Often used to characterise bacteria or viruses.

  • MRL

    The maximum amount of a pesticide residue allowed in foods or animal feeds, expressed as milligrams per kilogram.

  • The capacity to cause permanent, typically negative, changes to an organism and any offspring by altering the structure of its DNA.

  • A permanent, typically negative, change in the genetic material in a cell which, in most cases, can be passed onto any offspring.

  • Toxin produced by certain species of mould which are dangerous to humans and animals.

  • Natural or manufactured material which contains miniscule single units typically measuring between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (a human hair is 80,000-100,000 nanometers wide).

  • The study of nanomaterials.

  • Any adverse effect on the nervous system (e.g. paralysis or loss of function) that results from exposure to potentially toxic substances.

  • The difference between nitrogen intake from the diet (mainly from proteins) and the amount of nitrogen lost in body waste (e.g. faeces).

  • The non-monotonic dose-response curve (NMDRC) is a complex relationship between the dose of a substance and its effect, such that instead of a certain response simply increasing or decreasing with dose, the curve may be for example "U" shaped.

  • The greatest concentration or amount of a substance at which no detectable adverse effects occur in an exposed population.

  • The no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) is the greatest concentration or amount of a substance at which no detectable adverse effects occur in an exposed population.

  • A complex relationship between the dose of a substance and its effect, such that instead of a certain response simply increasing or decreasing with dose, the curve may be for example "U" shaped.

  • Foodstuff or food ingredient that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the European Union before 15 May 1997.

  • An element or compound needed for normal growth, development and health maintenance. Essential nutrients cannot be made by the body and must, therefore, be consumed from food.

  • The science of how diet relates to the body's need for sustenance.

  • A statement that implies that a foodstuff has beneficial nutritional properties, such as being “low fat” or “high in fibre”.

  • The fact or frequency of something (e.g. a disease or deficiency in a population) happening.

  • High-powered technologies used for holistic analysis of the molecules that make up the cells of living organisms; for example, Genomics is the study of the entire genome, while Proteomics analyses the complete complement of proteins within a biological sample.

  • Chemical containing carbon; often derived from plants, animals or bacteria.

  • A living thing such as humans, animals, plants and microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses)

  • PAL

    A physical activity level (PAL) is a way of estimating physical activity in a person by looking at energy (calorie) usage over 24 hours in relation to the amount of energy needed to fuel the body at rest.

  • An epidemic that becomes very widespread and affects a region, continent or the whole world.

  • Organism (e.g. bacterium, virus and parasite) that can cause disease.

  • The interaction between a pathogen (a disease-causing organism such as a bacterium, virus or parasite) and the living organism, or host, which can develop the disease.

  • A way of visualising the low, medium and high occurrences of a measurement (e.g. vitamin C intake) by splitting the whole distribution into one hundred equal parts.

  • Maximum level of a substance or other agent to which people can safely be exposed over a specified period of time.

  • A living organism (e.g. an insect, rodent, weed, fungus or virus) that is harmful to plants and/or their products (e.g. seeds, fruits)

  • A reporting procedure that identifies actual or potential risk from the occurrence, outbreak or spread of a pest defined as requiring quarantine in a particular geographical area.

  • Substance used to kill or control pests, including disease-carrying organisms and undesirable insects, animals and plants.

  • A way of estimating physical activity in a person by looking at energy (calorie) usage over 24 hours in relation to the amount of energy needed to fuel the body at rest.

  • Products used to protect, preserve or influence the growth of desirable plants or to destroy or control the growth of unwanted plants or parts of plants.

  • Monitoring of the effects of a new product (e.g. a GM plant) following its release onto the market. This may reveal adverse effects which were not predicted in the risk assessment conducted prior to market release. It stands for post-market environmental monitoring.

  • The point on a dose–response curve established from experimental data used to derive a safe level.

  • Community of humans, animals or plants from the same species.

  • The intake of a nutrient that is likely to meet the needs of almost all healthy people in a population.

  • A level set within a population to indicate when a significant change in risk occurs; for example, the point at which a certain number of people has been exposed to a chemical.

  • Monitoring of the effects of a new product (e.g. a GM plant) following its release onto the market. This may reveal adverse effects which were not predicted in the risk assessment conducted prior to market release.

  • A measure of the capacity of a chemical substance to exert an effect, described in terms of the relationship between the dose used and the magnitude of the resulting effect.

  • PPP

    A plant protection product (PPP) is used to protect, preserve or influence the growth of desirable plants or to destroy or control the growth of unwanted plants or parts of plants.

  • The proportion of a population found to have a condition.

  • PRI

    The intake of a nutrient that is likely to meet the needs of almost all healthy people in a population. It stands for population reference intake.

  • An infectious agent, prions are abnormal proteins that can be transferred between species attacking cellular proteins found mostly in the brain.

  • The likelihood that a particular event will occur or that a measured value will fall within a particular range.

  • The process of defining the specific problem being addressed in, for example, an environmental risk assessment. It involves articulating a question and defining how it may be answered (e.g. by identifying the endpoints to be measured).

  • A substance which is added during food processing to confer particular characteristics; for example, yeast added to bread.

  • Crops grown in greenhouses or cultivations grown under cover (e.g. in polytunnels).

  • A type of molecule composed of complex strings of amino acids (protein building blocks).

  • One of the family of so-called 'omics methods: an approach to the study of proteins whereby the entire complement of proteins in a given sample (of tissue, cells or a biological fluid such as blood) is analysed simultaneously. 

  • QPS

    The qualified presumption of safety (QPS) is a safety assessment procedure for microbes used in the food chain. QPS uses existing knowledge about the safety of specific microbes to differentiate those which are not of concern (and can be given QPS status) from those which may represent a risk and should be subject to a full safety assessment.

  • The quantitative/qualitative structure activity relationships (QSAR) are a set of methods by which the effects of different compounds are related to their molecular structures. It allows the likely adverse or beneficial effects of a particular chemical to be predicted by comparing it with others which have similar structures.

  • A safety assessment procedure for microbes used in the food chain. QPS uses existing knowledge about the safety of specific microbes to differentiate those which are not of concern (and can be given QPS status) from those which may represent a risk and should be subject to a full safety assessment.

  • A set of methods by which the effects of different compounds are related to their molecular structures. It allows the likely adverse or beneficial effects of a particular chemical to be predicted by comparing it with others which have similar structures.

  • Food intended by the producer for direct consumption without the need for cooking or other processing.

  • New plastic goods or materials that have been made from recycled plastic waste.

  • Value set for energy-yielding macronutrients. It is expressed as the proportion (%) of energy derived from that macronutrient. RIs represent ranges of intakes that are adequate for maintaining health.A calorie-containing component of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) which is needed in significant quantities for normal growth, development and maintenance of health.

  • An internationally accepted approach to reduce the use of animals in research by, wherever possible, requiring studies to use alternative models and/or making refinements to the methods to minimise any distress when animals are used.

  • An approach to the risk assessment of mixtures of substances in which responses to each of the individual components are determined and added together in order to predict the response to the mixture as a whole. This approach is only valid if the individual components do not interact with each other, i.e. their effects are completely independent.

  •  A specialised field of applied science that involves reviewing scientific data and studies in order to evaluate risks associated with certain hazards. It involves four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation.

  • The final stage of risk assessment, in which the likelihood that a particular substance will cause harm is calculated in the light of the nature of the hazard and the extent to which people, animals, plants and/or the environment are exposed to it.

  • The management of risks which have been identified by risk assessment. It includes the planning, implementation and evaluation of any resulting actions taken to protect consumers, animals and the environment.

  • A method for prioritising risks according to their likelihood and severity.

  • A method for weighing up the likely risks (in terms of the incidence and severity) associated with exposure to a substance versus the likely benefits.

  • RNA

    A type of nucleic acid found in the body, similar to DNA but single stranded. The best known function of RNA (ribonucleic acid) is transmitting instructions from DNA to the cellular machinery responsible for making proteins. 

  • The blocking of normal gene activities by RNA molecules. This is a natural process but can also be harnessed by biologists as a way of researching how genes work in the body.

  • The blocking of normal gene activities by RNA molecules. This is a natural process but can also be harnessed by biologists as a way of researching how genes work in the body.

  • Pertaining to a substance, it is a factor used by risk assessors to derive a reference dose that is considered safe or below which an adverse effect is unlikely to occur. The value of the safety factor depends on the toxic effect, the size and type of the population to be protected and the quality of the (eco)toxicological and exposure data available.

  • A systematic way of planning the number and type of samples required for an investigation.

  • Opinions include risk assessments on general scientific issues, evaluations of an application for the authorisation of a product, substance or claim, or an evaluation of a risk assessment.

  • Evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field.

  • A first step method to establish the presence of a substance in a population for the purposes of estimating risk. Food intake is combined with likely chemical concentration to create an estimate of chemical exposure.

  • SDD

    Species sensitivity distribution (SDD) is a model of the variation in sensitivity of a species to a particular source of harm (e.g. drought, pest invasion or chemical exposure).

  • The process whereby, during the course of its regular work, EFSA identifies an issue worthy of further consideration.

  • A change in soil quality which adversely affects its ability to nourish or support the ecosystem.

  • The cultivation of plants using a nutrient solution instead of soil; also called hydroponics.

  • A subdivision of the genus, a species is a group of closely related and similar-looking organisms; for example, in the case of Homo sapiens (humans), the second part of the name (sapiens) represents the species.

  • A model of the variation in sensitivity of a species to a particular source of harm (e.g. drought, pest invasion or chemical exposure).

  • The specific goals of an environmental risk assessment in terms of what to protect, where to protect it, over what time period and with what degree of certainty. 

  • The creation of a genetically modified organism (GMO) with more than one genetic modification. This can be done by (a) cross-breeding two GMOs with each having one or more pre-existing modifications (b) carrying out a second genetic modification in an existing GMO or (c) introducing multiple genes or traits at once.

  • Specifications aimed at harmonising the collection of samples from Member States for the analysis of harmful or beneficial substances in food, feed and water.

  • A measure of the likelihood that  a result occurred based on statistics.

  • A scientifically-based process consisting of four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation.

  • A subtype of a microbe defined by its genetic make-up; for example, in the case of Escherichia coli O157, the 'O157' part of the name refers to the strain.

  • A change in conditions, such as a drought, pest or chemical exposure, which often has negative effects on an organism or population.

  • Parts of organic molecules which are believed to be responsible for adverse effects (e.g. genotoxicity) and can be used to predict the toxicity of similar compounds.

  • An identifiable subdivision of a population; for example, infants.

  • An interaction that multiplies  outcomes. The outcome in question may be beneficial or adverse.

  • A pesticide which is distributed throughout the target organism (e.g. insect, rodent or weed) without losing efficacy.

  • Section of the healthy population defined by a specified age range and gender. Because of their particular physiological status, pregnant and lactating women are specific target populations.

  • TDI

    The tolerable daily intake (TDI) is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water which is not added deliberately (e.g contaminants) and which can be consumed over a lifetime without presenting an appreciable risk to health. 

  • A dose or exposure below which adverse effects are not detected.

  • A screening tool that provides conservative  exposure limits in the absence of sufficient chemical-specific toxicological data. It is a science-based approach for prioritising chemicals with low-level exposures that require more data over those that can be presumed to present no appreciable human health risk.

  • A way of organising toxicology assessments to maximise efficiency and minimise the use of animals. It involves a hierarchy (tiers) of tests, starting with those that use existing information or simple biological methods before moving onto tests using cells and eventually live animals only as necessary.

  • An estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water which is not added deliberately (e.g contaminants) and which can be consumed over a lifetime without presenting an appreciable risk to health. 

  • The maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without adverse health effects.

  • The maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed weekly over a lifetime without risking adverse health effects.

  • A study designed to estimate the likely consumption of harmful or beneficial substances in the diet. When undertaking such a study, commonly-consumed foods are purchased from shops in a particular country before being analysed.

  • The potential of a substance to cause harm to a living organism.

  • The process of interaction of chemical substances with the body and the subsequent reactions leading to adverse effects.

  • The study of the processes by which potentially toxic substances are handled in the body. This involves an understanding of the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of such substances.

  • A summary of the toxic effects of a particular substance, including the levels of exposure at which these effects occur.

  • A value defining the level of a particular substance to which people can safely be exposed over a specified period; for example, the acceptable daily intake (ADI).

  • The ability to track the journey of a foodstuff or ingredient through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

  • Traditional food is a subset of novel food. The term relates to food traditionally consumed in countries outside the EU. It includes foods made from plants, microorganisms, fungi, algae and animals (e.g. chia seeds, baobab fruit, insects, water chestnuts).

  • One of the family of so-called 'omics methods: an approach to the study of gene expression whereby thousands of RNA molecules in a given sample (of tissue or cells) are analysed simultaneously. 

  • A molecule formed from a particular compound (e.g. a pesticide) as a result of metabolism, chemical reactions or environmental processes.

  • Capable of being passed between individuals in the same species, as well as between different species (e.g. from animals to humans).

  • TTC

    The threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) is a screening tool that provides conservative exposure limits in the absence of sufficient chemical-specific toxicological data. It is a science-based approach for prioritising chemicals with low-level exposures that require more data over those that can be presumed to present no appreciable human health risk.

  • TWI

    The tolerable weekly intake (TWI) is the maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed weekly over a lifetime without risking adverse health effects.

  • The time required for 50% of a substance present in an individual, population or ecosystem to break down or be eliminated naturally. The half-life, or t½, is often used to describe the disappearance of potentially harmful substances such as chemical toxins.

  • A lack of full knowledge about a situation in, for example, risk assessment. Uncertainty can be reduced by carrying out more research.

  • A method of identifying the sources of uncertainty in a risk assessment calculation and estimating their size and direction so that errors can be taken into account.

  • A way of estimating exposure to a particular compound from analytical data by assigning the lowest value which can be detected (or quantitated) to all samples with levels below this value. For a toxic chemical this gives the most pessimistic estimate of exposure (i.e. the real level of exposure will always be below the upper bound estimate).

  • Natural variations observed between members of a population, or observed over time or in different geographical locations; for example, individual variations in susceptibility to a particular toxic chemical. 

  • A carrier of a disease-causing agent from an infected individual to a non-infected individual or its food or environment; for example, mosquitoes carrying malaria parasites.

  • The degree or ability of a disease-causing organism (e.g. a bacterium, virus or parasite) to cause disease.

  • Dietary substance needed in very small amounts to support normal growth and maintenance of health in humans and animals. Most vitamins are 'essential' as they are not made within the body.

  • Group of people needing specific consideration when assessing the nutritional needs or health effects of substances; for example, pregnant women, infants and people exposed to higher doses of substances through their environment.

  • A process in which all of the evidence relating to a decision is evaluated based on its strength and quality.

  • Visualisation of the entire genetic makeup of a particular organism.

  • A term given to diseases and infections that can be transmitted between animals and humans.