EU invests in safer food

The European Commission has decided to invest €14 million over five
years to create a Network of Excellence that will investigate the
presence of harmful chemicals in the food chain.

The European Commission has decided to invest €14 million over five years to create a Network of Excellence (NoE) that will investigate the presence of harmful chemicals in the food chain, according to a report from Cordis News.

The CASCADE network will bring together over 20 universities, research institutes and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) from across Europe under the co-ordination of Sweden's Karolinska Institute. The network will be funded under the food quality and safety section of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Ingemar Ponratz, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, is working to establish the network, and believes that it will deliver significant results: "This Network of Excellence will make a big difference. It will be the first time that such a wide scientific community, including neurologists, chemists, and experts in risk assessment and metabolism, is brought together in an integrated structure to combine different disciplines in a single project,"​ he told Cordis.

The network's primary role is to analyse the chemicals found in many common foodstuffs and their effect on human health using a broad range of scientific approaches. All of the network's research will be carried out by at least two partners from different countries, and close interaction between all members will be actively encouraged.

As well as carrying out basic research, however, there will also be an emphasis on applying its results, as Ponratz explained: "We aim to make practical suggestions about which foods are potentially harmful, and provide advice about healthy alternatives. We also aim to develop an advisory expertise in order to provide scientific information to policy makers and other non-experts."

The CASCADE network will formally begin its work in early 2004, which will include the development of a project website. Professor Jan-åke Gustafsson, also from the Karolinska Institute, stresses that: "It's important that [the Karolinska Institute] now gets the chance to show that we are good administrators and that we play an important part in large scale pan European research collaboration."

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