The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be using a Dutch calculation model, which maps the risks posed to consumers by the cumulative exposure to multiple pesticide residues in food. The Monte Carlo Risk Assessment (MCRA) program is an independent research tool from the Dutch government, developed by the Biometris department of Wageningen University & Research, in close cooperation with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
Our food contains various pesticide residues and the EFSA wishes to know the extent of the health risks involved. The organisation assesses the risks for the food chain and food safety in Europe, and provides the European Commission, European Parliament and individual member states with advice in the field of food safety.
It is thought that pesticides which cause the same specific effects can produce cumulative toxicity. The MCRA calculation model can analyse the cumulative effects of exposure to pesticide residues in food.
Model never before used on this scale
'We should be proud that Europe is using our calculation model – the first time on this scale,' says Hilko van der Voet, scientist at Wageningen University & Research. 'We have extensive experience in the field of risk modelling and its implementation in software. Our models are complex but provide the most realistic image possible.'
Assessments are currently being made with the model, aimed specifically at risks to the thyroid and nervous system. The results are expected to be published by the EFSA by the end of the year. Eventually, the model will also be used to calculate health risks to other organs.
Major step forward
The MCRA calculation model is currently being refined with a data model which describes the relations between the required datasets. The new data model is expected to contribute to a better availability of all the required data for the risk calculations.
According to Luc Mohimont from the Pesticides Unit at EFSA, the authority sees the newly published data model as a major step forward. 'We expect the database will be built and filled within the next three years, and from then on risk assessors at the EU and national level will have the means to perform these sophisticated assessments.'