1. Introduction

quantitative risk

Today's lifestyles are vastly different from those of the past. The fast pace of modern lifestyles has led to changes in how foods are prepared and corresponding consumption habits. A positive outcome of this has been rapid advances in food technology, processing and packaging techniques to help ensure the safety of the food supply.

In spite of these advances, contamination of the food supply by either naturally occurring contaminants, accidentally or deliberately introduced contaminants or malpractice does still occur. People are exposed to thousands of chemical substances in their daily lives. Some of them are beneficial to health (for instance, the main components of foods) but other substances (which may be present in food or in the environment) can induce adverse health effects.

The likelihood of adverse health effects is related to the magnitude, frequency and duration of exposure to this chemical (or group of chemicals) and to the sensitivity of each person. Human exposure to toxic chemicals and nutritional imbalances are currently known or suspected to be responsible for promoting or causing a wide range of conditions, such as: cancer, kidney and liver dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, immune system suppression,  birth defects, etc. These conditions are prevalent in all countries.  

The contamination of food by chemical hazards is of worldwide public health concern and is a leading cause of international trade problems.