Analysis of exposure to a dozen substances
ANSES's mission is to contribute to ensuring food, environmental and occupational health and safety. In this context, it launched its second Total Diet Study (TDS 2) in 2006 whose objectives were, on the one hand to describe the French population's food-based exposure to substances of public health interest, and on the other hand to characterise the health risks linked to food and associated with these substances. For this study, whose results were published in 2011, close to 20 000 food products were collected throughout metropolitan France, divided into eight inter-regional areas. 90% of the diets of both adults and children in France were represented. TDS 2 analysed 445 substances, and for a dozen of them a health risk for the French population could not be ruled out.
ANSES also conducts national surveys (INCA surveys) in order to gather information on the eating habits of the population in France. By cross-analysing the results of the survey conducted between 2007 and 2009 with the data obtained in the context of TDS 2, the population's exposure to these 12 substances in each of the 8 inter-regional areas was obtained.
For this, ANSES first studied whether differences in exposure existed between regions with regard to the twelve chemical substances whose risk had not been ruled out in TDS 2, for certain specific consumer groups within the general public and on the national level. Next, the Agency sought to find out whether these differences could be explained by variabilities in consumption.
Exposure to substances varies little from region to region
This analysis showed low variability in exposure between the different inter-regional areas for the chemical compounds examined, in particular for dioxins, PCBs and acrylamide.
The few exposure differences observed could be explained for example by differences in consumption habits between regions for certain food groups. Differences might also be explained by differences in inter-regional contamination due to the soil type or to industrial activities specific to a given inter-regional area; however this study was not able to quantitatively prove this connection.
More specific studies to be developed
At its origin, TDS 2 was not designed or conducted to explain inter-regional differences in food-based exposure to chemicals, nor to demonstrate the differences in contamination between inter-regional areas. No special recommendations can therefore be made concerning, for example, the need for heightened monitoring of any specific foods on the inter-regional level.
To do this, it would be necessary to develop other types of studies in order to take into account in detail the inter-regional disparities in eating habits and/or the known variability of certain contaminants, such as lead, in locally-produced foods.