Food Safety Research Consortium

Sep 12, 2003 | RFF Staff

Food safety is a dynamic and evolving problem. New food safety challenges flow from changed eating patterns, the aging of the population, increased reliance on food imports, new food production and processing technologies, and the emergence of new pathogens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are 76 million foodborne illnesses each year, with an associated 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths. These challenges have led to calls for a food safety system that is more science- and risk-based to allocate resources more in accordance with the distribution of risks and the opportunities to reduce risk across the food supply.

To address these food safety issues, researchers at RFF helped conceive and launch the Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC) ( on February 6, 2003. Comprised of RFF and six leading universities, the FSRC is a unique collaboration of researchers who share the goal of improving how the U.S. food safety system works to reduce foodborne illness.

Currently, a project team comprised of Resources for the Future, the University of Maryland, and Iowa State University has just finished developing a model to rank the public health impact of specific foodborne hazards. The model, the Foodborne Illness Risk Ranking Model (FIRRM), serves as a flexible tool for analyzing the relative public health importance of foodborne hazards. It does not provide a single “right answer” to this question but rather is a tool analysts can use to integrate available data and look at it from a number of different perspectives. The project team rolled out the model to the stakeholder community at a conference on September 12, 2003.

This project has been supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The model is one of a set of decision tools being developed by the FSRC to help policy makers design and manage a more science- and risk-based system.


September 12, 2003 Conference Presentations, Papers, and Video Demonstration of FSRC's first project:
A Model for Evaluating and Ranking the Public Health Impact of Foodborne Hazards