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Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Sep;47(9):2236-45. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2009.06.018. Epub 2009 Jun 14.

Refining the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) for risk prioritization of trace chemicals in food.

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  • 1Procter and Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH 45253, USA. felter.sp@pg.com


Due to ever-improving analytical capabilities, very low levels of unexpected chemicals can now be detected in foods. Although these may be toxicologically insignificant, such incidents often garner significant attention. The threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) methodology provides a scientifically defensible, transparent approach for putting low-level exposures in the context of potential risk, as a tool to facilitate prioritization of responses, including potential mitigation. The TTC method supports the establishment of tiered, health-protective exposure limits for chemicals lacking a full toxicity database, based on evaluation of the known toxicity of chemicals which share similar structural characteristics. The approach supports the view that prudent actions towards public health protection are based on evaluation of safety as opposed to detection chemistry. This paper builds on the existing TTC literature and recommends refinements that address two key areas. The first describes the inclusion of genotoxicity data as a way to refine the TTC limit for chemicals that have structural alerts for genotoxicity. The second area addresses duration of exposure. Whereas the existing TTC exposure limits assume a lifetime of exposure, human exposure to unintended chemicals in food is often only for a limited time. Recommendations are made to refine the approach for less-than-lifetime exposures.

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