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There are many substances in food and drinking water from different contamination sources for which only insufficient or no toxicity data exist. In order to prioritize and preliminarily assess the human health risks, the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) approach was developed between 1996 and 2004. This concept has since been applied increasingly by regulatory food safety authorities. In parallel, the safety of this approach has been discussed by stakeholders, primarily on a conceptual basis. However, real examples showing the practical benefits of this approach have not been discussed. In this paper, the technical feasibility, applicability, safety, and further benefits of the TTC approach are illustrated and discussed based on four real cases: 1) halogenated contaminants of unknown origin in the drinking water (polychlorinated butadienes), 2) an unwanted by-product from epoxy resin coatings in canned fish (Cyclo-di-BADGE), 3) two cyclic compounds occurring in polyamide food packaging materials and kitchen utensils, and 4) mycotoxins (from Alternaria). These examples from different fields of application clearly demonstrate that the results of the TTC approach are an extremely useful starting point for adequate decisions and actions (if necessary) by risk assessment and risk management in food safety. © Schweizerische Chemische Gesellschaft.

Kuster K.,University of Bern | Cousin M.-E.,ETH Zurich | Jemmi T.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Schopbach-Regula G.,University of Bern | Magouras I.,University of Bern
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Biosecurity is crucial for safeguarding livestock from infectious diseases. Despite the plethora of biosecurity recommendations, published scientific evidence on the effectiveness of individual biosecurity measures is limited. The objective of this study was to assess the perception of Swiss experts about the effectiveness and importance of individual on-farm biosecurity measures for cattle and swine farms (31 and 30 measures, respectively). Using a modified Delphi method, 16 Swiss livestock disease specialists (8 for each species) were interviewed. The experts were asked to rank biosecurity measures that were written on cards, by allocating a score from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Experts ranked biosecurity measures based on their importance related to Swiss legislation, feasibility, as well as the effort required for implementation and the benefit of each biosecurity measure. The experts also ranked biosecurity measures based on their effectiveness in preventing an infectious agent from entering and spreading on a farm, solely based on transmission characteristics of specific pathogens. The pathogens considered by cattle experts were those causing Bluetongue (BT), Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR). Swine experts expressed their opinion on the pathogens causing African Swine Fever (ASF), Enzootic Pneumonia (EP), Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), as well as FMD. For cattle farms, biosecurity measures that improve disease awareness of farmers were ranked as both most important and most effective. For swine farms, the most important and effective measures identified were those related to animal movements. Among all single measures evaluated, education of farmers was perceived by the experts to be the most important and effective for protecting both Swiss cattle and swine farms from disease. The findings of this study provide an important basis for recommendation to farmers and policy makers. © 2015 Kuster et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Stornetta A.,ETH Zurich | Engeli B.E.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Zarn J.A.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Gremaud G.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Sturla S.J.,ETH Zurich
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology | Year: 2015

We developed a simple tool for ranking chemical hazard-food pairs to assist policy makers and risk managers selecting the hazard-food pairs that deserve more attention and need to be monitored during food safety inspections. The tool is based on the derivation of a "Priority Index" (PI) that results from the ratio of the potency of the hazard and the consumer exposure. The potency corresponds to a toxicity reference value of the hazard, whereas the exposure results from the combination of the concentration of the hazard in the food, and the food consumption. Tool's assumptions and limitations are demonstrated and discussed by ranking a dataset of 13 mycotoxins in 26 food items routinely analyzed in Switzerland. The presented ranking of mycotoxin-food pairs has to be considered as relative due to scarce exposure data availability, and uncertainties in toxicity reference values. However, this representative example allows demonstrating the simplicity and the ability of the PI tool to prioritize chemical hazard-food pairs. © 2015 Elsevier Inc.

Diston D.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Sinreich M.,Federal Office for the Environment FOEN | Zimmermann S.,Federal Office for the Environment FOEN | Baumgartner A.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Felleisen R.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO
Environmental Science and Technology | Year: 2015

Microbial contamination of groundwater represents a significant health risk to resource users. Culture-dependent Bacteroides phage and molecular-dependent Bacteroidales 16S rRNA assays are employed in microbial source tracking (MST) studies globally, however little is known regarding how these important groups relate to each other in the environment and which is more suitable to indicate the presence of waterborne fecal pollution and human enteric viruses. This study addresses this knowledge gap by examining 64 groundwater samples from sites with varying hydrogeological properties using a MST toolbox containing two bacteriophage groups (phage infecting GB-124 and ARABA-84), and two Bacteroidales 16S rRNA markers (Hf183 and BacR); those were compared to fecal indicator bacteria, somatic coliphage, Bacteroidales 16S rRNA marker AllBac, four human enteric viruses (norovirus GI and II, enterovirus and group A rotavirus) and supplementary hydrogeological/chemical data. Bacteroidales 16S rRNA indicators offered a more sensitive assessment of both human-specific and general fecal contamination than phage indicators, but may overestimate the risk from enteric viral pathogens. Comparison with hydrogeological and land use site characteristics as well as auxiliary microbiological and chemical data proved the plausibility of the MST findings. Sites representing karst aquifers were of significantly worse microbial quality than those with unconsolidated or fissured aquifers, highlighting the vulnerability of these hydrogeological settings. © 2015 American Chemical Society.

Zarn J.A.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Hanggi E.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO | Engeli B.E.,Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology | Year: 2015

TTC values for chemicals with unknown toxicity but known structure are derived from 5th percentiles of NOAEL distributions from compounds with known toxicity. The impact of chemical structures on TTC values was repeatedly investigated but not the impact of parameters such as study numbers per compound and differences in study design. Recently, study design parameters such as application route with related dose-decrements, dose-spacing and number of animals per group but not exposure duration were found to affect NOAEL distributions. Here, the impact of study design parameters on lowest NOAEL distributions and consequently on TTC values was analyzed in a database on 423 Cramer class III pesticides. Using NOAELs related to lowest LOAELs instead of lowest NOAELs, excluding studies with a dose spacing >8, and standardizing NOAELs to the initial dose animals received shifted the 5th percentile of NOAEL distributions from 0.22 to 0.5. mg/kg body weight per day. In contrast, weighting of NOAELs for the study numbers per compound shifts 5th percentiles downwards to lower values by 10-20%. The results show that database and study design parameters influence NOAEL distributions to a minor degree and derived TTC values therefore can be considered reliable in that perspective. © 2015 Elsevier Inc..

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