The general population is constantly exposed to a mixture of endocrine disrupters (EDs), mainly through the food chain. This chapter reviews the multi-faceted relationship between ED risk assessment and food consumption.
The dietary exposure pathways are diverse, since EDs can (i) affect diet components most liable to environmental pollution [e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in lipid-rich foods]; (ii) be employed in food production (e.g. certain groups of agrochemicals); (iii) be released from food contact materials or during food production processes (such as bisphenol); (iv) last but not least, be naturally present in food (endocrine-active nutrients and bioactive substances, such as iodine and phytoestrogens, respectively). Main health concerns from dietary exposure to EDs include the building-up of a pollutants body burden and the potential for additive “cocktail” effects. The factors modulating exposure and susceptibility are considered, including different stages of life, specific dietary habits and food commodities. The multiple, often inadequately understood, interactions between EDs and food components, particularly nutrients, are given specific attention. Anti-nutritional factors present in many vegetable foods are proposed as “indirect” EDs as they impair the bioavailability of nutrients, such as trace elements, required for endocrine homeostasis.