The BfR contributes to the improved assessment of health risks from substance mixtures in the EuroMix Project

The EuroMix Project (European Test and Risk Assessment Strategies for Mixtures) has been successfully completed after four years with the participation of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). Within the EU-funded research project, 26 European institutions jointly developed a strategy to better test and assess the health risk of substance mixtures in food. “With our food, we take in many different substances at the same time. In order to assess health risks, possible combination effects must be accounted for better in future,” says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “The EuroMix Project has succeeded in designing a new testing strategy for the assessment of substance mixtures. It also has the potential to reduce the number of animal experiments.”

The BfR participated in the research project as the institution responsible for assessing the health risks of substances in Germany with two departments with the following background: Foods can contain potentially harmful substances, such as pesticide residues or naturally occurring substances. So far, however, it is difficult to assess the health risks of substance mixtures, because toxicological data are usually collected only for individual substances. Data for mixtures are often lacking. The EuroMix Project was intended to build a scientific foundation for improving the experimental determination of the toxicity in substance mixtures in the future.

New test methods and a harmonised risk assessment at European and international level should improve risk assessment in the future. In the project, the BfR undertook the analysis of the current legal framework for risk assessments of substance mixtures and their methods. Deficits were identified and, on this basis, recommendations for a newly developed test strategy were drafted. In addition, international scientists discussed in four workshops how a harmonised approach can be implemented outside of Europe. EuroMix also convened a panel of experts from the WHO in April 2019 and published an initial approach to the risk assessment of substance mixtures.

The EuroMix Project also aimed to reduce the number of animal experiments in the risk assessment of mixtures. The BfR therefore examined how alternative methods, for example computer-aided tests or in-vitro methods, can be used to reduce animal experiments in the field of substance mixtures testing. For example, the scientists investigated the combination effects of different substances in liver cells in order to be able to predict combination effects using sequential in-vitro tests. However, results indicate that further research is needed in order to fully replace animal experiments within risk assessment of substance mixtures.

26 institutions cooperated in the EuroMix Project, which received €8 million from the EU research and innovation programme “Horizon 2020”. The coordination was carried out by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The results are published on the project website

Talks are currently underway for possible EuroMix follow-up projects.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. 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.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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