Dietary exposure assessment is the process of evaluating human exposure to a chemical, microbiological, or physical agent present in foods. Dietary exposure assessment draws on a highly developed methodology that nutritionists, dieticians, and biochemists have used for more than 60 years. With respect to food safety, dietary exposure assessment is a tool for estimating intake for the purposes of risk assessment. It also identifies foods causally associated with an acute outbreak; however, the more sophisticated methodologies of dietary exposure assessment are rarely part of an outbreak investigation. Within the field of dietary risk assessment, direct and indirect approaches are possible. Direct methods estimate the intake of the compound of interest in individuals within a population subgroup. Indirect methods combine food consumption data with contaminant concentration data derived from different data sources. Dietary intake of a food component, such as a micronutrient; a food ingredient, such as a food additive; or a contaminant, such as a pesticide residue, is often indirectly estimated based on two parameters: (1) the concentration of the food component, ingredient, or contaminant at the time of consumption and (2) the amount of the food consumed. Exponent has acquired and processed data from several national and international food consumption surveys. The data have been integrated in models that can be used for efficiently estimating intakes of foods, nutrients and food additives, and dietary exposures to contaminants, whether chemical or microbial. In additional, Exponent can construct models targeted to address specific questions.
Nationwide surveys such as USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII), CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food’s national consumption surveys for adults, toddlers and young people are publicly available. However, proper analysis of the data from these surveys requires the use of specialized statistical methods to adjust for the complex sample designs. Exponent has the tools and experience to help you make sense of these data and routinely uses these data in nutrition and intake assessments. These assessments can be used by food companies for market research and product development.
Examples of such assessments conducted by Exponent include:
- For a major food company: evaluation of the nutrient intake profile of consumers of a given food to determine whether consumers of that food are better able to meet their nutrient needs than non-consumers.
- For several major food companies: detailed evaluation of the nutrient intake profiles of the US population and several population groups to identify potential gaps in the diets of the US population. Results of these assessments were used by R&D departments in the development of new foods/fortification of existing foods.
- For a major food technology company: assessed the intakes of fatty acids intakes and the impact of substitution of low linolenic acid soybean oil for hydrogenated soybean oil on fatty acids intakes.
- For a consortium of food companies: assessed the long-term intakes of flavonoids. The assessment was used in an epidemiological evaluation of the potential protective effects of flavonoids against coronary heart disease (CHD).
Chemical/Microbial Dietary Assessments
While the principle of dietary exposure assessment can be very simple, evaluating the data to use in these assessments, and proper interpretation of the findings is not always an easy task. Exponent’s experienced staff includes both technical and regulatory consultants who are knowledgeable in dealing with foods, food safety, and nutrition, and with pesticide and non-pesticide products, including conventional chemicals, biochemicals, agrochemicals, microbials, and antimicrobials. They use specially designed dietary assessment models to derived estimates of chemical and microbial contaminants and have the expertise to design models targeted to specific questions.