People, our homes, the air we breathe, our food and the water we drink. All are made of chemicals.
But some of them can harm our health or the environment.
EFSA scientifically assesses the chemicals in food and feed to determine if each one is safe.
EU regulators use our scientific advice to decide if the chemical can be present safely in the food chain, and at what level.
When chemicals mix, are they safe?
We mainly assess the safety of chemicals in food and feed one at a time, because most laws deal with single substances in particular sectors and circumstances. However, both natural and man-made chemicals exist side-by-side in the everyday world. We are in contact with “chemical mixtures” from different sources every second of every day. In some cases, the chemicals in these mixtures might combine in a way that changes their toxicity, i.e. how they affect health.
But there is an infinite number of possible combinations of chemicals so it is important to know which mixtures to assess.
Scientists are developing new ways to assess chemical mixtures so that people, animals and the environment are safe.
How is this done?
Estimating exposure to chemical mixtures
People, farm animals and wild animals come into contact with different chemicals through their diet.
For example, crops contain naturally-occurring chemicals such as fibre, magnesium or phosphorus, as well as natural toxins produced by moulds or weeds. Man-made chemicals such as pesticides and environmental pollutants might be there too.