Food Safety Department
The Food Safety Department evaluates food with regard to its substance-related risks. This concerns both ingredients that occur naturally in food and those that are intentionally added during food processing. Undesirable substances that enter food through manufacturing, storage or treatment processes are also assessed. This also includes potentially sensitive subgroups in the population.
The department also assesses food according to nutritional medicine and nutritional physiology-based criteria. Foods for specific consumer groups (including foods for infants and young children or foods for special medical purposes) occupy an important place in this regard. The department formulates opinions on nutritional risks and issues regarding nutritional prevention.
Another focus of the department’s work is the development of opinions on novel foods and genetically modified food and feed. This also includes the conception and application of innovative detection methods as well as strategies and methods for traceability and product identity of food and feed.
The department also conducts its own research on food safety issues. Its major aim is to create an improved data basis for risk assessment and, if necessary, to develop specific courses of action for consumer protection. For this purpose, the department develops modern methods, for example, to identify new biological effects for the risk assessment of potentially toxicologically relevant substances instead of the endpoints traditionally used in animal experiments. In addition, biomarkers are being sought that will enable an even better assessment of exposure to known toxicologically relevant substances in the future. A new priority is the planning and implementation of human studies, especially epidemiological studies.
Core research areas are:
- Identifying molecular mechanisms of action for substances contained in food or diet that are toxicologically relevant for human health (including nanoparticles and nano/microplastics).
- Conducting small human studies to determine bioavailability and internal exposure, to identify pathways of metabolism, and to establish new exposure and effect markers. New analytical methods are being developed and validated for this.
- Conducting epidemiological studies and using already established large cohort studies to investigate associations between markers of exposure and health endpoints.
- Analysing the absorption of foreign substances in food across the gastrointestinal barrier.
- Developing cell-based test systems for effect-based analytics as well as new predictive test methods for identifying a toxic potential.
- Developing and validating new molecular biological approaches for tracing food-associated allergens and animal proteins in feed.
- Preparing risk assessments on secondary plant substances and other substances with nutritional or physiological effects as well as assessment concepts on micronutrients and other food ingredients.
Two reference laboratories are located in the department:
- the National Reference Laboratory for Animal Protein in Feed, and
- the Reference Laboratory of the European Network on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
The department oversees the following BfR committees:
- Nutritional risks, novel foods and allergies
- Genetically modified food and feed
- Food additives, flavourings and processing aids
Employees represent the BfR in national and international expert panels, for example:
- Working Group of Food Chemistry Experts from the Federal States and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (ALS)
- Senate Commission on Food Safety (SKLM) (DFG)
- European Food Safety Authority – Expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (EFSA-ANS Panel)
- European Food Safety Authority – Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (EFSA-NDA Panel)
Division 5 - Food Safety includes four specialist groups and a study centre: