Testikel fra voksen rotte. DTU Fødevareinstituttet

The unborn child must be better protected from chemical cocktails

Health and diseases
Even small doses of a chemical substance can be harmful when it occurs in combination with other substances. Knowledge about the cocktail effect is pivotal when legislators set the allowable limits for substances that are permitted in industrial products. Research and advice from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, is fundamentally about protecting the unborn child.

The National Food Institute’s research into endocrine disrupting chemicals aims to protect the unborn child against the harmful effects of such substances. The research focus is on how these chemicals can disrupt the body’s hormone signaling in relation to reproduction.

Better protection of women’s ability to reproduce

The National Food Institute works with several project to gain knowledge about the harmful effects of endocrine disruptors and to develop better methods for testing the adverse effects of various substances.

"The ambition is to build enough knowledge and develop good tools that can be used to quickly and efficiently analyze the potential harmful effects of all new chemical substances on a child’s development. The dream scenario is to develop an advanced computer programme which can tell that this specific substance has an effect at given levels of exposure if e.g. three other given substances are also included in the cocktail."
Head of Research Group, Senior Researcher Terje Svingen

For example, the aim of the FREIA project is to explore how chemicals can disrupt women’s ability to have children and how better testing of chemicals can protect women’s reproductive systems.

New tools for assessing risks 

The so-called cocktail effect is an important part of the problem as to how substances cause harmful effects on people’s reproductive capacity. Experiments and monitoring conducted as a part of national projects for the authorities clearly indicate that if many chemicals are present even in small amounts, it can cause significant harmful effect.

For this reason, researchers at the National Food Institute have developed a toolkit that takes cocktail effects into account when assessing the risk of exposure to chemical substances.

Research helps companies and authorities

Knowledge about cocktail effects helps authorities to determine allowable limits for the chemical content in the products that companies manufacture. In 2018 the EU decided e.g., to recognize four phthalates as having an endocrine disrupting effect on humans and to acknowledge the cocktail effect. The National Food Institute has contributed a significant amount of the documentation for this proposal.

Read more

Read more about the National Food Institute’s research into endocrine disruptors and cocktail effects in an article from the National Food Institute’s 60th anniversary publication: The unborn child must be better protected from chemical cocktails.

The National Food Institute is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, as it was decided on June 5, 1959 to establish a national food institute in Denmark. The other articles from the anniversary publication will be published over the coming months.

You can also read the article: At the forefront of healthy, safe, and sustainable food.

The National Food Institute prevents disesase and promotes health

Consumers are increasingly interested in their health. Magazines and news media are brimming with advice on healthy eating, exercising more and healthy living in general – and the demand for healthy and safe foods continues to increase. 

However, at the same time, more and more people are affected by infectious diseases and lifestyle diseases, and exposure to chemicals can lead to cancer and inhibit our ability to reproduce.

Thus, research that promotes health and prevents disease is very important.

The majority of the research projects, scientific advice to authorities, cooperation with businesses and teaching activities at the National Food Institute have the fundamental vision to make a difference by preventing disease and promoting health in a number of areas: 

  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Unwanted effects of chemical substances
  • Nutrition
  • Food allergy
  • Microbiological food safety
  • Hygienic design in the production of food
  • Risk-benefit assessments of health effects
  • Chemical food analysis
  • Nano-materials in foods
  • Risk assessments
  • Gut health
  • Development of health food and ingredients.
Image: National Food Institute