Chemicals are essential building blocks for everything in the world. All living matter, including people, animals and plants, consists of chemicals. All food is made up of chemical substances. Chemicals in food are largely harmless and often desirable – for example, nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre are composed of chemical compounds. Many of these occur naturally and contribute both to a rounded diet and to our eating experience.
Chemicals can, however, have a variety of toxicological properties, some of which might cause effects in humans and animals. Usually, these are not harmful unless we are exposed to them for a long time and at high levels. Scientists help to safeguard against these harmful effects by establishing safe levels. This scientific advice informs decision-makers who regulate the use of chemicals in food or seek to limit their presence in the food chain.