Food safety

Project to update the principles and methods for the assessment of chemicals in food


The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) have served as scientific advisory bodies to the Codex Alimentarius Commission since its inception in the early 1960s, member countries, and other interested parties. In response to requests by JECFA and JMPR for general guidance for risk assessments, the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) sponsored in the 1980s the preparation of two Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) monographs, EHC 70 (Principles for the safety assessment of food additives and contaminants in food) and EHC 104 (Principles for the toxicological assessment of pesticide residues in food). JECFA has regularly held meetings at which veterinary drug residues in foods were assessed. While general principles have been developed in these meetings, they have not been consolidated in a similar document.

Considerable changes have taken place in the procedures and complexity of assessments of chemicals in food since the preparation of these monographs. There have been significant advances in chemical analysis, toxicological assessment, and risk assessment procedures, and JECFA and JMPR have developed many new general principles. In light of this and the recognition that the evaluations performed by JECFA and JMPR serve as the scientific foundation for international food standards that are of increasing importance within the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the World Trade Organization, FAO and WHO have initiated a joint Project to Update and Consolidate Principles and Methods for the Risk Assessment of Chemicals in Food.

A detailed monograph on the methods and principles for the risk assessment of chemicals in food was developed, under the guidance of an international steering group. A series of workshops were held to develop the basis for the key chapters. In addition, drafters were commissioned for certain subchapters, which were subsequently peer reviewed by the steering group and/or by invited experts. A consolidated draft monograph was then made available for external review and comment. Many international experts contributed to the development of this comprehensive document, and all contributions are acknowledged in detail at the beginning of the monograph. A detailed description of the overall process in developing this monograph is also given in the introductory part.

The monograph is published in the Environmental Health Criteria series: EHC240 Principles and Methods for the Risk Assessment of Chemicals in Food, WHO 2009 and can be ordered from WHO at:

The monograph has been developed so that the key chapters are stand-alone documents, which allows for update of specific chapters as required. The individual chapters as well as all other relevant parts of the document are published here separately.