Publication Details

Williams, P. (2012). Food Toxicity and Safety. In J. Mann & A. Truswell (Eds.), Essentials of Human Nutrition (pp. 449-466). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Key Points

• Despite the many potential health risks associated with foods, in practice the degree of risk associated with the modern food supply is extremely low.

• By far the most important hazards of significance are those from biological agents: pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and a few toxic seafoods.

• Trends to larger-scale production, longer distribution chains in the food supply, increased eating away from the home and the emergence of new pathogens means foodborne illness continues to be a significant public health issue.

• The assessment of the safety of food additives is led internationally by JECFA, but each individual country still develops and determines their own local regulations and food standards.

• The ADI is defined as the amount of a chemical that might be ingested daily, even over a lifetime, without appreciable risk to the consumer

• Genetically modified foods, novel foods and nano-materials pose new challenges for traditional safety assessment processes but, as the food supply becomes increasing global, food regulations about food safety are becoming more harmonized internationally.