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Scientific Steering Committee

Identifying and risk ranking undesirable substances in food

Report no:


Publishing: 16.09.2019

Key message:

The Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) will prepare an overview of undesirable substances and additives in food that may pose a potential health risk. In addition, VKM will rank the substances according to potential risk.

VKM does this at request from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.


Food shall not contain levels of undesirable substances or additives that can be of health concern. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has several monitoring programs for undescirable substances. The prioritization of which substances to examine differ from year to year and is based upon i.e. changed dietary habits or new knowledge about specific substances. To ensure that the monitoring data can be applied in the management of safe foods, NFSA needs risk-based knowledge regarding which substances to examine, which food categories to monitor, and how many samples that should be included in the monitoring programs for each substance and food category.

Three parts

The assignment is divided into three parts.

Part 1 is to provide an overview of undesirable substances in foods, drinks and dietary supplements that may potentially pose a health risk and include scientific grounds for each substance. Potential health risks should be assessed based on both toxicity and exposure, when this information is available. The list of substances should be based on the VKM members’ expert judgement. Substances that should be included:

  • Food additives and aromatic substances
  • Substances used in food contact materials
  • Contaminants
  • Process-induces substances
  • Natural toxins

Substances that should be excluded (these substances are already covered by the two extensive monitoring programs that Norway is committed to according to the EEA-agreement):

  • Veterinary residues and illegal pharmaceuticals
  • Pesticide residues

Part 2 is to assess and rank the substances on the list developed in part 1, according to potential health risk. The risk ranking should be based on methods and criteria defined by VKM and must be described.

Part 3. For each of the substances on the list from part 1, VKM is asked to describe a) Which food, drinks and/or dietary supplements is most relevant for monitoring b) What is adequate sampling and number of samples to ensure monitoring that is representative for the occurrence in foods consumed by the Norwegian population

The report will be published September 15, 2019.


Gro Mathisen

Project manager, PhD

T: +47 21 62 28 06
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The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment

T: 21 62 28 00
@: vkm@vkm.no

P.O. Box 222 Skøyen
0213 Oslo

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