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Basic concepts of exposure assessment and Total Diet Studies

Exposure assessment is one of the four steps of food risk assessment, which includes: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation. Exposure assessment in the field of food safety relies on estimating the intake of a substance or a microorganism by the population in a given period of time. It is usually estimated by multiplying food intake data by food contamination data in the deterministic approach or combining probability distributions, e.g. food consumption and food concentration corrected or not by uncertainty.

Exposure assessment may be different from one country to another because of the differences in food consumption habits or in food contamination. Furthermore there are significant differences in how consumption and concentration data are generated in various countries as well as differences in how the exposure assessments are performed. Food concentration data can be biased because of targeted sampling, the methodology of exposure assessment is changing from deterministic approaches towards probabilistic approach where appropriate and different countries have different reasons and different possibilities to collect data and to perform exposure assessment. Hence, there is the necessity to develop a more unified approach to exposure assessments across countries within the EU.

Most EU countries do not yet have a TDS and there is a need to develop them in a harmonized way.