Omics technologies may have major implications in food risk assessment but it remains unclear to what extend they can be used, according to a review article for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The technology has the benefit of being very sensitive but the researchers questioned whether it could be too sensitive for applications in risk assessment.
Pielaat et al said that most of the omics studies included in the review were not designed for the purpose of food safety risk assessment.
Omics technologies are divided into three main categories: genomics, proteomics, metabonomics/metabolomics .
The combination of genomics and epidemiology is the most relevant application of omics data to early detection of emerging microbiological hazards.
Genetic analysis of pathogens can be used to reduce public health risks through the detection of virulence factors, resistance genes and genetic diversity.
But the lack of microbiological omics data on host-pathogen interaction and changes in pathogens under different conditions makes it difficult to use the data for risk assessment.
Currently, transcriptomics is the most frequently used omics technique for food and feed safety as it is the most developed technology, said the review citing Hartung and McBride (2011).
Omics have not yet been successfully applied often and when they have pathogens have been the focus and not the host.
The report gives a description of the different types of omics technologies with recent progresses on the application of the techniques in chemical and microbiological risk assessment.
Compared to traditional methods, omics technologies appear relatively simple, sensitive and quick to generate information, potentially reducing the need for animal testing.
They have been applied to food and feed safety in the identification of biomarkers, the identification and screening of new and emerging contaminants in food, the evaluation of nutritional health claims and the detection and characterisation of foodborne pathogens.
The researchers identified 300 scientific articles on about 60 selected case studies covering food and feed safety.
One case study involved 2-Isopropylthioxanthone (ITX) which is used in UV-cured inks for food packaging materials.
Results from omics experiments showed there was strong indication that ITX activates the arylhydrocarbon receptor but while the observation is of interest for identification of mode of action, due to the in vitro approach the relevance for risk assessment is limited.
“Review on the state of art of omics technologies in risk assessment related to food and feed safety”
Authors: A Pielaat, GC Barker, P Hendriksen, P Hollman, A Peijnenburg and BH Ter Kuile