What’s on the menu in Europe?

EFSA and national food safety agencies back plans for pan-European food consumption survey.

Are intakes of food additives safe for all population groups? Are fat intake levels going down in the EU? Are consumers exposed through their diet to high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium? Who is most at risk of deficiencies in nutrients such as iron or folic acid? Which foods contribute most to Salmonella infections in humans?

These are some of the many questions that risk assessors at EFSA and in Member States address in their work every day. Access to reliable and comparable information and data on food consumption is critical in providing answers both to possible food safety and nutritional concerns.

When a new hazard is found in the food chain – for instance the recent cases of melamine found in various foods or dioxin contamination of pork – scientists must quickly assess who is exposed, through which foods and at what levels. This in order to provide a rapid and reliable risk assessment and to help risk managers take appropriate action to protect consumers.

In the area of nutrition, the analysis of dietary intake data is essential to help set science-based public health targets, to assess how dietary intakes compare with recommended intake levels and to monitor progress over time.

Today, scientists in Member States and at EFSA rely on food consumption data collected at national level. Progress has been made in recent years, spearheaded by EFSA and the Advisory Forum, to bring together such data in order to allow more efficient and accurate exposure assessment at EU level. Nevertheless, important differences in food consumption data collection remain and hamper the effective use of such data for risk assessment at EU level.

Members of EFSA’s Advisory Forum, bringing together national food safety agencies from the 27 EU Member States, confirmed today their strong support for the establishment of a pan-European food consumption survey (EU Menu). This critical tool and building block for risk assessment will allow the collection of detailed and harmonised food consumption data at the level of individuals, across the EU. First discussed at the Advisory Forum meeting in Athens on 25 November 2009, members today endorsed this project as a priority for scientific co-operation between Member States and EFSA.

This press release is also available in Spanish

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