Toxicological characterization of novel food and feed

The assessment of the safety of new generations of complex foods and feeds (including genetically modified crops) is carried out using 28-day and 90-day feed/toxicity trials. There is a great deal of discussion about the suitability and sensitivity of animal trials used to assess the safety of these complex products.


This project has three long-term objectives:

1) The toxicological characterisation of existing or new complex products and suspect preparations using a battery of in vitro assays for specific toxicity.

2) The use of omics techniques (gene expression and metabolite profiles) to analyse existing or new foods to detect toxic properties.

3) The implementation of these new methods/approaches to make a contribution to the refinement, reduction and, where relevant, replacement of existing animal trials for feed and toxicity tests.

We intend to actively communicate the opportunities this new approach offers for the risk assessment of complex mixtures.


The following specific objectives will be addressed in 2014:

1) Review the suitability and strength of in vitro effect and bioactivation tests in combination with transcriptomics techniques for the broad screening of the potential hazards posed by complex products. This review will be carried out using herb mixtures (including mixtures based on Aristolochia and tansy ragwort) and new crops (potato lines) as cases.

2) Use omics techniques to prepare gene expression and metabolite profiles of existing and new complex foods using for future use in risk assessments.

Project result

The knowledge and expertise acquired during this project will be used to submit recommendations for the policy to be adopted in response to incidents and crises.

This project will provide an insight into the practicability of in vitro methods and omics techniques for the assessment of the safety of complex new foods and animal feeds, including products containing ingredients originating from GMO crops. The results will serve purposes including the provision of input for discussions within national and international authorities and organisations, in particular discussions on the predictive value of animal trials for the assessment of food safety and the adoption of in vitro approaches (based on omics) as an alternative.