Food safety

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

Request for comments on draft document - Posted 30 June 2008

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, member countries, and other interested parties since the early 1960s. In response to requests by JECFA and JMPR for documented 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).

Since then JECFA and JMPR have regularly held meetings at which general principles have been developed and updated, however they have not been consolidated in a guidance document. In light of this and to take account of advances in the science of risk assessment, FAO and WHO have initiated a joint Project to Update and Consolidate Principles and Methods for the Risk Assessment of Chemicals in Food.

Within the framework of this project, several international expert workshop and consultations have been held to develop an updated guidance document. The final draft document is now open for public comments. All comments will be collated and considered in a final expert consultation later in 2008 and the final document will be published in the Environmental Health Criteria series, then superseding the previous EHC 70 and 104 documents. Electronic publication is also foreseen.


This document describes general principles and methods for the risk assessment of additives, contaminants, pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues and natural constituents in foods. It also includes general guidance on the risk assessment of novel and non-traditional whole foods.

For some food and food ingredient terms, such as "novel", "foods for special dietary uses", and "nutrient", there are differences in the definitions among national and regional authorities. In this document, the definitions given are those developed by JECFA and JMPR or the CAC.

Some general guidance is also given on risk assessment related to upper levels for nutrients and other beneficial food components. Nutrient requirements or the determination of the efficacy of beneficial dietary components are not addressed.


In order to facilitate the review process, the individual chapters as well as an overall list of acronyms, glossary of terms and table of contents are provided separately for ease of reference.

Download the document(s):

Comments should be received by15 September 2008.

When providing comments, please identify the chapter, page and line numbers of the text you wish to comment on. In order to facilitate compilation of comments, you are requested to use the format of the table above for providing comments, and to send them electronically by e-mail to JECFA.

Please note that the completion of the WHO Declaration of Interests form is a prerequisite for any comments to be considered. Send the signed, completed form either electronically to the e-mail address above or by fax to: +41 22 791 4848.

The expert consultation will be held in Seoul, Republic of Korea on 11-14 November 2008, kindly supported by the Korea Food and Drug Administration/National Institute of Toxicological Research. The final report will be published in the Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) series, replacing the previous EHC 70 and EHC 104.