Food safety and quality

FAO releases three reviews about chemical exposure and the gut microbiome


The gut microbiome is highly dynamic and complex microbial community that resides and interacts within the gastrointestinal tract. This “community” can take part in various physiological activities, such as digestion and immune function, and helps maintain intestinal and systemic homeostasis. In addition, the gut microbiome is very sensitive to environmental factors, including diet, which can have both positive and negative impacts on health. Imbalances of the gut microbiome have been associated with various disorders, including obesity, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

With the advent of omics technologies, the study of the gut microbiome has taken a holistic approach, allowing for a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between the microbiome and the host. However, despite the progress made, there are still significant research and knowledge gaps. These include the need for a sufficient and systematically documented weight of evidence connecting the impact of dietary factors on the gut microbiome and their effects on human health, as well as providing solid mechanistic explanations.

A better understanding of how dietary components can impact the gut microbiome and human health is crucial for improving food safety risk assessment. By better understanding the potential effects of dietary chemicals on the microbial population, we can identify relevant microbiome endpoints that can be used in risk assessment. Integrating microbiome data into risk assessment models can enhance its predictive power and allow for a more holistic assessment of chemical safety.

FAO conducted a review of the literature to assess the scientific evidence regarding the impact of microplastics, and residues of pesticide and veterinary drugs on the gut microbiome and their potential connection to adverse health effects. The focus of the reviews was on food safety, aiming to identify research limitations, knowledge gaps and areas that need further investigation before using gut microbiome data in chemical evaluations and ultimately advancing food safety risk assessment. The three reviews can serve as a starting point for multidisciplinary discussions, involving risk assessors, to support regulatory science and policy development.

Access the three documents:

The impact of pesticide residues on the gut microbiome and human health – A food safety perspective 

The impact of veterinary drug residues on the gut microbiome and human health – A food safety perspective

The impact of microplastics on the gut microbiome and health – A food safety perspective




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