Introduction

Nowadays food is produced and distributed in a global market leading to stringent legislation and regulation for food quality and safety in order to protect consumers and ensure fair trade. Despite these efforts, food safety incidents occasionally occur and originate from both microbial and chemical contamination. Pesticide and veterinary drug residues, endocrine disruptors, food additives and packaging materials, environmental contaminants (including dioxins and heavy metals) and contaminants of natural origin (including mycotoxins and marine toxins) are of particular concern. As a consequence of the introduction of food commodities containing ingredients produced by modern biotechnology and resulting legal requirements of safety and labeling, a strong additional demand for adequate methods of analysis has occurred. Risk analysis provides a framework for regulatory authorities to protect the consumer from potential food safety hazards and is performed in an iterative manner by food safety managers (regulatory authorities), risk assessors (scientists) and stakeholders (i.e., consumers, industry, non-governmental organizations). The assessment of food safety is a scientific exercise performed by scientists and consists of hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment and risk characterization. An important prerequisite for performing risk assessment adequately is the presence of data generated by reliable and fit-for-purpose analytical methods to estimate the level of exposure and intake of the consumer to contaminants and residues. Hence, the accuracy of risk assessment will benefit from the availability of comprehensive quantitative monitoring and consumption data. However, cost and time considerations of food safety managers (in regulatory institutions and industry) favour the development and implementation of inexpensive and rapid screening methods having a limited scope and providing qualitative or semiquantitative "on-off" data only. Global food production practices and the changing climate showed that new unexpected food safety hazards and risks may appear in the food and feed production chain stressing the need for analytical tools capable of early warning for such emerging risks. Some of these potential food safety hazards and methodologies capable of detecting known and unknown emerging contaminants are discussed and related challenges defined. It is argued that monitoring programmes should anticipate these new conspicuous threats. In this context a key role is proposed for bioactivity-based screening concepts and bioactivity-directed identification tools.

The development of both rapid screening methods and comprehensive tools covering as many contaminants as possible including emerging and even unknown contaminants is justified by the different needs from food safety stakeholders. The rapid screening developments are facing the challenge of multiplex detection in order to extend their scope, the comprehensive methods on the other hand are facing major challenges in generic sample preparation and advanced data evaluation.

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