John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Trends in food contamination and exposure since the 1970s Volume 16, issue 2, March-April 2017

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  • Key words: food contamination, risk assessment
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2017.0969
  • Page(s) : 151-60
  • Published in: 2017

Between 1976 and 1978, a national inventory of food quality was established to assess food-borne contaminant intake. More recently, Anses carried out several total diet studies to evaluate food contamination in France and the French population's exposure to various substances: the first French total diet study (2001-2004), a study of fish and seafood consumption and exposure biomarkers for trace elements, pollutants, and omega 3 (2003-2006), the second French total diet study (2006-2011), and the French infant total diet study (2010-2016). Consequently, it is possible to compare food contamination and exposure from the late 1970s until today. Over this period, mean contamination of the principal food contributors to exposure declined for three substances (cadmium, lead, and nitrites) and remains in the same order of magnitude as that estimated in the 1970s for two substances (total mercury and sulfites). Moreover, mean food exposure of adults and children is lower today than in the 1970s for 18 substances (cadmium, lead, patulin, etc.) but is higher for three pesticides (captan, endosulfan, and dimethoate). Mean food exposure of high seafood consumers was lower for lead but higher for methylmercury. In conclusion, although these results must be interpreted with caution, they appear encouraging and might reflect, in part, the effectiveness of risk management measures implemented in the past few years. Moreover, these results underline the importance of monitoring food contamination and exposure levels over time.