Food safety

Food-safety testing is often time-consuming and uncertain. TNO develops advanced methods that provide fast, accurate information on allergenicity and on the microbiological and toxicological safety of foods and food-production chains. We offer a unique approach for the timely detection of food incidents, evaluating the effect of changes in products and product chains, and assessing the effects of hygiene measures.

Manufacturers and public-sector bodies do not always have the appropriate means for efficiently assessing and safeguarding foods and food production in terms of safety and risks. Products contain an ever-increasing number of components, some of them in large concentrations. For many substances, information on toxicological risk and the likelihood that they could cause an allergic reaction is still lacking. A growing world population, decreasing space for food production, and a rising demand for natural ingredients are leading to new ways of producing food. Examples are the recovery of by-products from food-processing streams and the discovery of new protein sources. These new production methods involve new risks, however.
In addition, it is also difficult to gather information in the event of actual or potential incidents in food production. It is vital that information is available without delay so that risks can be assessed realistically and decisions (e.g. a recall) made promptly.

Fast assessment

TNO is a leading independent party in safety assessment (including food safety) and risk management. Within open innovation programmes we develop methods that enable manufacturers and public-sector bodies to quickly and accurately assess the microbiological and toxicological safety of complex products. In addition, we have a unique risk-assessment method for allergens in food and we are developing methods for predicting the allergenicity of proteins and peptides. We are doing this in cooperation with other leaders in the field, such as Utrecht University, the University Medical Center Utrecht and the University of Nebraska. As a partner in various programmes for open innovation, TNO is also developing instruments for the early detection of public health risks and potential food incidents.
We are working on internationally recognised testing methods that speed up product and policy development and enable more decisive responses to potential food incidents.

Food safety and risks

TNO invests in four research lines:

  • Complex matrices
    An efficient method is not yet available for assessing the safety of complex products that contain unknown substances. TNO is working on a statutorily acceptable strategy for the effective and efficient analysis of these products.
  • Food allergy
    The implementation of risk management with regard to 'may contain traces of…' labelling and the development of a strategy for predicting the allergenicity of proteins and peptides.
  • TNO's service ERIS (Emerging Risk Identification Support) helps stakeholders to identify and evaluate existing and emerging risks and respond effectively to them.
  • Microbiological safety
    Microbial alert systems are used to identify microbial hazards quickly and precisely. These systems provide information on pathogenicity, can trace the source of contamination, and provide information on antibiotic sensitivity.


Ambiguous labeling of food products causes allergic reactions

18 June 2018
People with a food allergy regularly have an allergic reaction because of unclear labeling. In a recent study by the University Medical Center Utrecht and The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific... Read more

Biomedical Health

Dr. Geert Houben

  • food allergy
  • allergy
  • food toxicology
  • immunotoxicology
  • Risk assessment and risk management


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