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Diversity instead of monotony - safe through variety

24/2015, 17.09.2015

At the World Children’s Day, the BfR illustrates how current food consumption data is collected

Varying eating habits, making a point of preparing food freshly more often, and ensuring the rules of hygiene are strictly observed in the kitchen - these are the topics presented by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) at the Celebration of World Children’s Day held in Berlin on 20 September from 11am to 6pm. At the BfR booth No. 40 on Gabriele Tergit Promenade, the BfR provides adults and children with information on safe food. With a painting activity and games, the BfR will show what can be done in everyday life to ensure safe food is put on the plate. In addition, scientists will demonstrate how, as part of a large research project, they ascertain what and how much average children eat in Germany. "With the current data on child food consumption, we can conduct a more realistic exposure estimate and hence improve our risk assessment", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "The data collected by the BfR makes an important contribution to ensuring that food is safe for children as well."

Due to missing or out-of-data on children between six months and five years, the BfR, in cooperation with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has conducted a representative Child Nutrition Survey (Kinder-Ernährungsstudie zur Erfassung des Lebensmittelverzehrs, KiESEL). This nutrition survey is a module of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS), Wave 2 of the RKI.

In exposure estimates for substances contained in foods, children often show higher values, in terms of their bodyweight, compared to adults. This means that babies and infants are a particularly vulnerable population group. On the basis of the current data on the nutritional habits of children, it is possible to conduct more accurate estimates of whether, for example, the permitted quantities of additives in sweets or residue of pesticides on fruit and vegetables are safe or whether they should be reduced further. For the health risk assessments of the BfR not only take into account the risk potential of a substance but always relate it to the level of exposure, i.e. the quantity of a substance with which consumers actually come into contact.

The risk is calculated from the hazard potential of a substance or germ and the quantity which a consumer ingests, i.e. their level of exposure to that substance or germ. There is no risk without exposure. For example, if an unhealthy substance is contained in a type of food which is only eaten rarely or in low quantities, it only poses a small risk or no risk at all for consumers. Conversely, the same unhealthy substance can pose a risk if it is contained in a number of foods which are eaten on a daily basis.

Lead, arsenic, coumarin and pyrrolizidine alkaloids are examples of substances contained in foods that can pose health risks. Food-borne microorganisms that can become a health risk include salmonella and listeria. When selecting foods, consumers should take into account the general recommendation on variety and diversity.

The BfR encourages users to twitter at #openBfR about the event organised by the BfR at the World Children’s Day 2015.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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