Pages: 6-24 Published Online: May 6, 2015
This special issue of the IJNFS is devoted to outstanding research findings on “Human and animal exposures to food and feed contaminants”. It is well known that the quality of the food and feed consumed by humans and animals need to be void of contaminants or contain acceptable levels of the contaminants in order to be regarded as “safe”. However, the safety of agricultural commodities and their processed products including animal feed are in most cases unknown partly due to lack of instrumentation to precisely analyze for occurrences of different food/feed contaminants.
Food and feed can be simultaneously contaminated by different contaminants and at various points along the food and feed value chain e.g., during cultivation, harvesting, transportation and storage and/or processing stages. These contaminants may include mycotoxins, pesticide residues, heavy metals, bisphenol A etc and are known to be harmful to animal and human health. In view of their toxic effects and high frequencies of occurrences in food and feed, regulatory agencies such as FDA, FAO, Codex Alimentarius, EC and those situated in several nations have fixed maximum tolerable limits (MTLs) for some of these contaminants in different food matrices.
Assessment of human and animal exposure levels to these contaminants has however been very difficult due to lack/unavailability of instrumentation with very high sensitivity to detect and quantify very small amounts of the contaminants in biological samples. Currently, the developed countries have exploited biomarkers of exposure and/or biomarkers of effects to determine dietary exposure levels to various food contaminants and so compare exposures with regulatory levels (MTLs) to reduce exposure levels. Conversely, some developing countries are concerned with occurrence levels of a few contaminants and depend on food frequency questionnaires to assess dietary exposure levels while others are simply kept in a fix partly due to lack of data.
Health implications due to exposure to a given contaminant may vary depending on the type and potency, and duration of exposure (chronic or acute) of the toxicant; age, sex and health status of exposed individuals; interactions between various toxins, and/or toxin and body components such as proteins and DNA etc. These contaminants serve as risk factors to diversified animal and human diseases. For example, mycotoxins are carcinogenic, hepatotoxic and immunosuppressive, while bisphenol A is a risk factor for several metabolic disorders. In view of the above facts, special attention is needed for outstanding findings from researchers whose areas of interest span through, but not limited to, studies on food contaminants (mycotoxins, pesticides/ pesticide residues, bisphenol A, heavy metals), their occurrence levels, biomarkers/bio-monitoring, and/or exposure assessment/health risk assessment.