The 8th Food Packaging Forum (FPF) workshop “Improving the chemical safety of food contact articles: Linking policy-making with scientific research” took place online on October 21-23, 2020.

On October 22, Kate Guyton from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France, explained the approaches followed by the agency in carrying out its assessment and in preparing the IARC Monographs. She emphasized the important role played by independent experts in preparing the evaluations and described the approaches used for cancer hazard classification, evidence synthesis, and carcinogen classification.

IARC is involved in both generating and evaluating data on carcinogens, and it has been publishing its Monographs since 1971. The procedures followed to conduct the IARC Monographs evaluations are transparently communicated in a preamble published with each Monograph (last updated in January 2019). The evaluations are carried out by working groups consisting of “independent scientists without conflicts of interest.” A working group may also include invited specialists, representatives of governments, and observers. These participants “attend meetings but do not draft text or contribute to evaluations.” Meetings are usually announced around one year ahead, and interested stakeholders can nominate themselves to join a particular meeting. All published Monographs can be freely accessed online.

The considered evidence covers “exposure in humans, cancer in humans, and mechanisms.” There are specific challenges arising in dealing with each data stream, and Guyton illustrated these in detail on the example of mechanistic data. “Key characteristics” represent a recent approach developed for organizing “voluminous” mechanistic data and using it for cancer hazard classification (FPF reported). Recently, a website has been launched where one can learn more about the key characteristics framework (FPF reported) and review the key characteristics of carcinogens and other types of hazardous chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors (FPF reported). Guyton also touched on the similarities and differences between the key characteristics and the adverse outcome pathway frameworks using the example of benzene. Lastly, she reviewed the approaches taken by the IARC to synthesize the available evidence and decide on the resulting carcinogen classification. The latest update related to this is the adoption of a “single step integration” approach.

Lastly, Guyton reviewed “future priorities for evaluation” in a timeframe up to 2024, as summarized in a report published in 2019. She emphasized that every stakeholder can nominate an agent for future evaluation or re-evaluation by IARC.

Read more

Kate Guyton (October 22, 2020). “Identifying carcinogens: The essential role of independent scientific experts.” (YouTube; pdf)


IARC (2019). “IARC monographs on the identification of carcinogenic hazards to humans. PREAMBLE.(pdf)

Smith, M.T., et al. (2016). “Key characteristics of carcinogens as a basis for organizing data on mechanisms of carcinogenesis.Environmental Health Perspectives 124: 713-721.

Guyton, K.Z., et al. (2018). “Application of the key characteristics of carcinogens in cancer hazard identification.Carcinogenesis 39: 614.

La Merrill, M., et al. (2019). “Consensus on the key characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a basis for hazard identification.Nature Reviews: Endocrinology 16: 45-57.

IARC (2019). “IARC monographs on the identification of carcinogenic hazards to humans. Report of the Advisory Group to recommend priorities for the IARC Monographs during 2020-2024.(pdf)