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J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):1987S-1991S.

Nutrient risk assessment as a tool for providing scientific assessments to regulators.

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Institute of Medicine, The National Academies, Washington, DC 20001 and 5Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Regulatory officials world-wide are paying attention to the process for establishing the upper level of intake for nutrient substances. The rapidly expanding use of dietary supplements, fortified foods, and functional foods, coupled with increased trade in these products, has focused attention on ensuring their safety and on harmonizing standards internationally. The more traditional approaches, in which the regulators either provided no standards for upper levels of intake or developed standards based on some arbitrary multiple of the intake level known to provide an adequate amount of the nutrient, are recognized as outdated or inappropriate for the emerging issues. Preferred approaches are those that rely on the systematic scientific assessment of risk to determine the levels of intake below which no harm may occur. The scientific study of risk is playing an increased role in establishing the regulatory upper levels of "safe" nutrient intake. Risk assessment, as a component of risk analysis, offers a scientific basis for regulatory decision-making regarding the regulators' task associated with specifying safe upper levels of intake for nutrient substances. This article describes the key components of risk assessment as they are applied within the nutrition field. Although regulatory frameworks vary from country to country and all countries retain their right to determine their own level of protection, regulatory systems operate most effectively and are more likely to converge toward harmonization if they are informed by independent, organized, and scientific reviews that are conducted systematically in a transparent manner.

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