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Introducing TKPlate — Food safety without animal testing

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently launched TKPlate, a groundbreaking online platform that promises a major step forward in reducing or eliminating animal testing in food safety. At Biosafe, we are committed to ethical and innovative approaches to food safety. The TKPlate platform aligns closely with our values and represents a significant advancement in the field.

A shift away from traditional methods

For decades, animal testing has been a cornerstone of assessing the safety of chemicals in food, feed, and various consumer products. Since the 1950s, this method has largely underpinned our understanding and assurance of food safety. However, the ethical and scientific validity of animal testing has increasingly come under increasing scrutiny, leading to a growing demand for alternative approaches.

TKPlate: A database-driven analysis tool

TKPlate was created as a response to this demand. Developed by scientists at EFSA and top European research organisations, TKPlate is a suite of tools for modelling and predicting toxicokinetics (TK) - how the body deals with chemicals - and toxicodynamics (TD) - the effects of chemicals on the body.

Jean-Lou Dorne, a toxicologist at EFSA, and statistician/modeller Jose Cortiñas Abrahantes spearheaded this project. The concept for TKPlate was conceived in 2014, focusing on developing a series of TK and TD models. Over the years, these models have been refined through extensive research, including contributions from academic partners and national agencies.

Capabilities of TKPlate

TKPlate is a computer analysis tool based on extensive data from various tests and studies. It allows users to input data on chemicals and gain insight into how these chemicals affect humans and animals. Users can model TK and TD processes across various species, including humans, lab animals, and species in the food chain. By entering parameters such as species, chemicals, and exposure types, the platform calculates internal chemical concentrations (TK) and predicts potential effects (TD). This tool can potentially replace animal data, reducing the need for new experiments.

Developing the platform

Creating TKPlate was a colossal task. It involved conceptualising and developing complex models that accurately represent the interactions between substances and organisms. These models underwent rigorous testing and validation, ensuring their reliability and robustness.

Reliability and applications of TK models

The predictions offered by TKPlate, like all scientific models, have inherent variability and uncertainty. However, the reliability of each model has been transparently assessed and reported through a series of case studies in accordance with international standards.

TKPlate is not yet used in EFSA's assessments, but its potential applications are being explored. The platform aims to optimise chemical risk assessment and support the training of EFSA staff and experts across Europe.

A new era in chemical risk assessment

While TKPlate is not currently part of EFSA's mandatory regulations and remains a voluntary tool, its development is a promising sign of progress. It is an initiative that has been lobbied for over the last 50 years and we at Biosafe see it as a pivotal development in the field.

Carlos Gonçalo das Neves, EFSA's Chief Scientist, believes we are on the cusp of a new era in chemical risk assessment. TKPlate, together with other New Approach Methodologies (NAMs), will reduce animal testing and improve the quality and relevance of the data used in assessments. This move is in response to public demand and represents a significant step forward in scientific risk assessment.

A step towards the 3Rs

The 3Rs principle, as advocated by the Tampere, Finland-based FIN3R, is highly relevant to the discussion surrounding TKPlate and its implications for food safety testing. This principle stands for Replace, Reduce and Refine - a framework aimed at minimising the use of animals in scientific research. TKPlate embodies the essence of the 'replace' aspect of the 3Rs by offering a viable alternative to animal testing through its database-driven, computer-assisted approach to analysis.

Looking ahead

The launch of TKPlate 1.0 is not just a technological advancement;  it represents a shift towards a more humane and scientifically advanced approach to food safety assessment. This open access platform for toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic modelling is a testament to EFSA's commitment to innovative, ethical, and science-based solutions.

It embodies the values we hold dear at Biosafe: commitment to innovation, ethics, and the continuous pursuit of methods that respect both human health and animal welfare.

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Published: 24.11.2023

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