Replacing Animal Testing Challenge: animal-free strategies in food safety & nutrition


About this course

10 million animals every year are used for scientific purposes. A similar number of laboratory animals are bred every year for science but never actually used. If we stop animal testing today, what would the world look like?


When we buy food or drinks in the supermarket, we can assume that these products are not harmful to our health and to the environment. If you take a look around your kitchen, there is a big chance that all the food and drinks you find has at some point been tested on animals. Food safety research not only tests the final product, but looks at the whole production process: ingredients, chemicals, flavoring, packaging materials and the machines used to produce the food or drinks: Simply everything to do with food has been tested on animals. Is there a way to change this situation?

Although there is a legal obligation in Europe to replace, refine or reduce the use of animals for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/ EU45), the regulations are still mostly based on a requirement for animal data. This means that large numbers of animals are still being used to support the food and beverages industries.
The food industry is facing the challenge of assessing food and food components for humans while using animal based tests with limited relevance for the general population. Therefore, there is a need to develop models and methods that can better predict effects in humans.

Researchers are inventing new technologies that can reduce animal models. New approach methodologies (NAMs) are being developed in an increasingly rapid pace and put forward to refine, reduce and replace animal testing in safety assessment. The NAMs include in vitro tissue cultures, high content imaging, omics and computational models. There is great potential for animal-free strategies. The scientific developments and acceptability of approaches need to be more reflected in legislation and need to be more promoted by producers.

Can you help us develop concrete policy measures to accelerate the transition towards animal-free innovations?
We define policy broadly. To us it is broader than rules and regulations.
Policy can be an objective, or the establishment of a program that facilitates cooperation.
This is an ongoing process at different levels inside and outside our institutions.
Still, the number of animals used in science has not decreased in the last year.

How can we accelerate the dissemination and acceptance of animal-free innovations and stimulate the attitude going with it even more through effective policy measures?
Can we innovate this complex ecosystem of food safety testing (regulators, large companies, startups, universities, research centers) without using animals? 

To accomplish this, we have to start focusing on educating the next generation of researchers, educators and legislators.  

The course is in collaboration with Proefdiervrij NL and RIVM.

Students from TU/e and WUR can register for this challenge via

Learning outcomes

  • Analyze the context of a real-life problem and distinguish the most relevant elements for designing a solution;
  • Assess opportunities offered by the existing state-of-the-art technologies and solutions and identify areas for innovation relevant for solving a real-life challenge;
  • Gathering, selecting and analyzing information, tools and techniques and integrating this into final project deliverables in terms of process and content at an academic level;
  • Discuss and defend their viewpoints and conclusions in a feasible, professional and academically correct way;
  • Set and reflect on personal learning goals based on their expertise and that of other team members and stakeholder, in a cyclic manner leading to future reflections and actions.

Required prior knowledge

To participate in the RAT Challenge, the student must have (disciplinary) knowledge in his/her field of study and should have successfully completed (at least!) the first two years of their BSc program. Furthermore, the student should master information literacy, computer literacy and presentation skills; English verbal and writing skills should be on a level which allows full contribution to the project development, and full independent functioning in a student team.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.
There are currently no offerings available for students of TU Eindhoven