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From the trough to the plate – digitally calculated

22/2023, 07.11.2023

The BfR computer programme “ConTrans”
estimates how much of an undesirable substance is transferred from feed to food

How long does it take for an undesirable substance in animal feed to appear in food of animal origin? And how high will its content be? After switching to uncontaminated feed, when can we expect meat and eggs to be “clean” again, i.e., harmless to your health? These are key food safety issues for risk management. Until now, they could only be answered by means of elaborate studies, lengthy analyses of samples and complex mathematical models. The digital tool “Contaminant Transfer Predictor” (”ConTrans”), which has now been developed at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), can significantly speed up such estimations. ”Our aim is to provide risk management authorities and other stakeholders along the food chain with an easy-to-use digital tool to help them make prompt decisions on what measures to adopt when feed contamination is detected,” says BfR President Professor Dr Dr Andreas Hensel. The focus is currently on contaminants such as dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but also on the class of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are currently on the spotlight. The prediction capability will be extended to other relevant undesirable substances in the future. The programme is available at The login data can be requested at

Predictive models are based on experimental data from animals. They use complex mathematical methods to simulate the transfer of undesirable substances from animal feed into animal tissues and products. Transfer involves determining how much of a substance is absorbed by the animal and how it is distributed in the body. Other aspects, such as how long it stays in the body, what compounds it breaks down into, and how it is excreted are also mathematically modelled. These predictions become part of the easy-to-use ConTrans programme.

ConTrans can be used to calculate predictions for scenarios where contaminated feed is used in animal nutrition. Although they do not replace feed and food control activities, they can be an important decision support tool in regulatory risk management. This is particularly important when assessing whether the specified maximum level of a substance in food has been exceeded or to understand whether the content is likely to pose a health risk after consumption. The programme can currently be used to model predictions for beef, pork and poultry, as well as foods derived from them such as meat, eggs and dairy products in the event of contamination with dioxins, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and also some potentially harmful plant substances. The BfR is constantly expanding the programme.


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