The level of food safety in the Netherlands is extremely high, and has been for many years. It is nevertheless important to remain alert to new threats. Food can contain micro-organisms which cause serious illness. It can become contaminated either during production or during preparation.
Food may also contain contaminants other than micro-organisms which are harmful to health. Such substances may occur naturally, or be introduced at some point in the production process. Examples include additives (E-numbers) and residues of pesticides. Not all food is safe for everyone: there are many people who are allergic to certain foods or constituents.
RIVM performs a number of tasks in the field of food safety. Some are statutory tasks but all are further to the government’s health protection policy. We develop models to monitor food safety over time, and we maintain databases of relevant information. For example, we will determine and record the concentration at which a chemical substance will pose a risk to health, and how much of that substance a person can safely ingest. This type of research is increasingly being undertaken in the international context for organizations such as EFSA and WHO. RIVM also researches food allergens, seeking to identify the substances which cause an allergic reaction and the quantity of the substance which is likely to do so.
Based on its research findings, RIVM advises its
various clients. They include the Ministry of Health, Welfare and
Sport (VWS), the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (VWA),
the Board for the Authorisation of Plant Protection Products and
Biocides (Ctgb), the Veterinary Medicinal Products Unit (BD), the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),
WHO and FAO.