Brussels, 13 Jul 2004
The CASCADE (chemicals as contaminants in the food chain) Network of Excellence, established in February 2004 under the Food quality and safety priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), is now operational.
The objective of the network is to provide Europe with excellent research, risk assessment and training on the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in food. As well as filling gaps in our scientific understanding of chemical contaminants, CASCADE also hopes to increase public awareness and promote better decision making among both consumers and policy makers regarding food.
There are many chemical residues in food, some of which are believed to interfere with the human endocrine system that distributes hormones to the body. Disrupted nuclear hormone receptor function is believed to be linked to diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.
Toxicants (man-made toxins) in food rarely exist in isolation; therefore CASCADE will specifically address the effects and interactions of mixtures of chemical residues. The 23 partner organisations across Europe will develop animal, cell and computer based tests to screen food extracts for a range of chemical residues, and investigate their potential to interfere with nuclear receptor signalling pathways. By developing standardised tests and models, the network hopes to reduce the cost of toxicological testing for chemicals.
The coordinator for the network, Professor Jan-Åke Gustafsson, head of the department of medical nutrition at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said: 'We in the CASCADE NoE [Network of Excellence] are very excited about this fantastic opportunity to participate in building up a new infrastructure of collaboration between European laboratories.'
He continued: 'The special scientific focus of CASCADE, endocrine disruptors in food, is particularly suited for a team effort since the European Union is in great need of a harmonised policy regarding allowed levels of contaminants in food. [...] Our intention is to keep in close contact with consumers' organisations and to inform the public about the progress of our research and recommendations.'
The partners say that they will collaborate with a broad range of organisations and groups, providing scientific advice to support regional, national and European authorities. The network can also function as an advisory panel of experts if the need arises during unexpected situations, where action may be required.
For further information on the CASCADE NoE, please consult the following web address:
To find out more about EU endocrine disrupter research, please visit: