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Chemicals from anthropogenic and natural origins enter animal feed, human food and water either as undesirable contaminants or as part of the components of a diet. Over the last five decades, considerable efforts and progress to develop methodologies to protect humans and animals against potential risks associated with exposure to such potentially toxic chemicals have been made.This special issue presents relevant methodological developments and examples of risk assessments of undesirable substances in the food chain integrating the animal health and the human health perspective and refers to recent Opinions of the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This introductory review aims to give a comparative account of the risk assessment steps used in human health and animal health risk assessments for chemicals in the food chain and provides a critical view of the data gaps and future perspectives for this cross-disciplinary field.▸ Principles of human and animal health risk assessment. ▸ Data gaps for each step of animal health risk assessment. ▸ Implications of animal risk assessment on human risk assessment. ▸ Future perspectives on chemical risk assessment.