The consumption of plant-based meat alternatives has recently transitioned from the niche market to the mainstream. However, changing the dietary patterns may lead to new health challenges referred to possible higher exposure to natural toxins found in plant-based food. The present project aimed to train the fellow in the field of chemical risk assessment and provide a comprehensive overview on how a change towards plant-based meat alternatives may represent a driver for emerging risks. Thus, within the EU-FORA programme the fellow engaged in the following activities: (i) perform a systematic review to analyse the distribution of natural toxins in the most common plant-based meat alternatives in Europe, (ii) risk–benefit assessment of shifting from meat-based diets to soy-based meat alternatives by modelling the substitution of meat with soy, and (iii) determine the occurrence of mycotoxins in plant-based meat alternatives from local markets in Parma, Italy. The fellow learnt the chemical risk assessment procedures applied by the researchers from the Department of Food and Drug of Parma University, thus gaining an in-depth expertise in all the steps. A risk–benefit assessment was performed modelling the intake of aflatoxin B1-contaminated soy-based meat analogues. The health impact due to intake of soy and exposure to aflatoxin B1 was estimated. Within the research group, the fellow also worked on developing a multi-mycotoxin determination method for plant-based meat alternatives matrices. The results of the project provide a picture reflecting the occurrence of natural toxins in plant-based meat alternatives and the need of upgraded regulation frameworks that take into account new products and dietary patterns. The EU-FORA fellowship was a great opportunity for the fellow to expand his professional network and increase his expertise in food safety by gaining new skills in chemical risk assessment, risk–benefit assessment and analytical chemistry.
Risk–benefit assessment of shifting from traditional meat-based diets to alternative dietary patterns / Mihalache, O. A.; Dellafiora, L.; Dall'Asta, C.. - In: EFSA JOURNAL. - ISSN 1831-4732. - 20:2(2022), p. e200919.e200919. [10.2903/j.efsa.2022.e200919]