Monte Carlo Risk Assessment (MCRA) is a computer program used to calculate exposure to chemical substances through food. This applies primarily to substances which could pose health hazards, such as lead, cadmium or acrylamide. However, MCRA can also be used to calculate nutrient intake. MCRA was developed for RIVM by Biometris (Wageningen University & Research Centre). The model is continually fine-tuned to integrate the latest insights regarding intake calculations, and developed for use in other applications.
Intake calculations are needed in order to assess the potential health risk of the amount of chemical contaminants that we might be exposed to through food. These intake calculations can be carried out by using MCRA. Next, a risk assessment takes place to determine whether the estimated intake of a substance is not excessively high in comparison to the amounts that are deemed safe.
Intake can be calculated for various age groups or population groups. It is also possible to calculate which percentage of the population will reach a specific exposure level – e.g. the percentage of the population that will exceed a specific human health threshold value. Additionally, MCRA can indicate which food products make a major contribution in exposure to a chemical substance.
MCRA uses data from the National Food Consumption Survey and concentrations of chemical substances in food products. MCRA calculates probability-based intake, incorporating variations in consumption and concentration data as well as the uncertainties in these input variables. Other relevant variables which could influence intake are also included in the calculations, such as whether processing (for instance cooking) affects the amount of the chemical present in a product and to what extent.
Besides calculating the exposure to a single substance through food, MCRA can also be used to calculate the exposure to multiple chemicals at the same time (cumulative exposure). In addition, MCRA can calculate the probable exposure to the most common combinations of substances in an age group or population group. MCRA can also be used to calculate exposure through multiple sources, such as food, inhalation and/or skin contact.