The harmful effects of chemical contaminants in food are of major health concern in Europe today. However, a lack of integration of interdisciplinary activities, such as basic research and risk assessment, severely hampers the efforts to reach European excellence in this area. The individual research projects are also small in scale and not well integrated into a coherent structure. To tackle the fragmentation problems and to achieve synergistic effects and full European research potential, the European Commission will this week sign a contract worth over €14 million with 18 different European research centers, which will form a durable European Network of Excellence in food safety.
The so-called CASCADE Network of Excellence, coordinated from Swedish Karolinska Institutet, had its first meeting in Malaga, Spain, February 12th – 14th. Around 70 scientists, EU officials, and other invited project leaders met and discussed an appropriate course of action for the future. It was agreed that CASCADE has the potential and goal to be a world force in knowledge on the health issues related to chemical contaminants in food.
The focus will lie on the action of complex mixtures of chemical contaminants on hormonal systems. Hormone disrupting agents, acting through nuclear receptors, are known to be involved in many different pathological processes, such as tumour development and growth, metabolic disease and obesity, and coronary heart disease; in short the major diseases that affect Europeans today. In this initial 5-year contract, the molecular biologists, chemists, epidemiologists, ecotoxicologists, physiologists and endocrinologists of CASCADE will focus on the mechanisms of action of the chemical residues and their levels in the food chain, development of common sampling techniques, and identification of biological markers to assess any health risks the contaminants might constitute for humans. Specific focus groups will be women, newborn children and other susceptible populations. A new approach will be to develop strategies to take any beneficial effects of certain natural food constituents into consideration in the overall risk analysis.
Jan-Åke Gustafsson | alfa
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