There is a general expectation from society, that food will be safe. However, ensuring food safety is harder than it may sound. For most of the people most of the time, this expectation is met. Nevertheless, what can be considered as “safe” for some people, may not be “safe” for others. Each individual responds differently to the same food or nutrient. This is determined by genetic factors, such as allergies, tendency to develop diabetes, etc., as well as by acquired factors, such as the development of the microbiome, the amount of stress and exercise in daily life, the financial capacity to procure quality food, etc. The safety of food is therefore dependent on many factors, some of which are highly regulated, while others are not regulated at all. In addition to the above, although food may be legally/regulatory be characterised as “safe”, it can still have a negative effect on human health, with examples such as sugars, saturated fats, etc. Poor nutritional practice and long-term consumption of such foods can lead to nutrition-related health conditions, including: Obesity, Diabetes, Heart diseases (e.g. Coronary Heart Disease – CHD), Cancer, Bone/Dental health issues, Psychological disorders, etc.
Maintaining the safety of food requires constant vigilance by government, industry and consumers as the food supply changes as a result of new technologies, expanding trade opportunities, ethnic diversity in the population, and changing individual diets. The range and diversity of food available to consumers has greatly expanded in recent decades, as has the interest by consumers in food matters, including the safety of food. As a result, the amount of advice on healthy food choices has also expanded. However, the number of people suffering from health problems related to unhealthy diets in the EU is on the rise. Although generally well-intentioned, generic advice on healthy foods choices can confuse and, in some cases, mislead consumers. Assessment of food choices need to be based on sound scientific evidence, so that consumers can remain confident about the safety of their individual food supply. After all, one of the main reasons for the lack of regulation, is the insufficient knowledge of how nutrition affects each person, and is affected by each factor (or different factors combined). In order to optimise the diet of a person, a host of different factors have to be assessed. This is not an easy task, and definitely not something that is easily attainable outside of a scientific research laboratory.
However, if modern society is to reach a state where people are getting the most out of nutrition, then an efficient and reliable way of personalising nutrition has to be made available to the wider public. In order to do so, such a personalised nutrition Platform (the proposed NUTRISHIELD Platform) would have to take into account all factors, and be able to provide cost-effective and non-invasive analysis on a wide range of biomarkers (for assessing hereditary and acquired traits), as well as monitor and assess key aspects of peoples’ everyday life, such as their psychological profile and state, their finances & lifestyle, their needs & preferences, individual behaviour, their daily nutritional choices, etc., alongside to general economic factors (e.g. market prices) and socio-cultural aspects.
The challenge here is to create a platform that promotes safe food for the population, enables consumers to make informed choices and also ensures that the proposed choices will have good chance of being adopted. This should be fact-based, and provide the consumers with all the information for understanding why each food is being suggested, what implications each choice may have, as well as monitor the results of a healthy diet in order to maximise the retention of such positive dietary habits. Providing evidence that there is a lower level of risk associated with certain diseases, requires a method of analysing food risks that is evidence-based and transparent, and results in effective strategies which can be communicated clearly to consumers.
There is therefore a need for a framework that provides the necessary methodology for analysing biomarkers (analytical devices and techniques for biomarkers), correlating biomarkers to dietary choices, and then communicates scientific measurements, health assessment results and dietary suggestions, to people. This is NUTRISHIELD.