Journal Article

Ensuring Food Safety around the Globe: The Many Roles of Risk Analysis from Risk Ranking to Microbial Risk Assessment.

May 10, 2010 | Sandra A. Hoffmann

RFF Fellow Sandra Hoffmann has organized a special issue of Risk Analysis (May 2010) focused on food safety.  Risk Analysis is the journal of the Society of Risk Analysis and this edition examines recent advances in risk research that can enhance food safety policy around the world.  Her introductory editorial describes efforts to create risk-based policies that nations around the world use to improve safety of food imports and exports and to reduce incidences of foodborne diseases. The article, entitled “Ensuring Food Safety around the Globe: The Many Roles of Risk Analysis – From Risk Ranking to Microbial Risk Assessment,” asserts that implementing risk-based policies could aid better inspection and monitoring of food production. In addition, such efforts could help nations target public health investments and improve priority-setting to advance food safety policies.

Excerpts from Hoffmann’s editorial:

“One way to think about the contribution of risk analysis can make to food safety policy could be as a hierarchical, nested sequence of analyses that help decision-makers hone in on where their efforts would reduce risk most. At the most aggregate level, there are basic risk ranking exercises and efforts to monitor the emergence of new hazards.

“At the most detailed level, microbial risk assessment examining the way a particular pathogen hazard emerges in the process of supplying a particular food helps risk managers to pinpoint appropriate control points.

“If risk ranking of health endpoints provides a broad picture of the distributional impact of food safety risks in the population, risk assessment provides a more detailed picture of how these risks are generated. Using microbial risk assessment  for evaluating foodborne pathogens is a relatively new application. Even though MRA has been conducted for decades to support policy development in water quality management and space exploration, as late as the early 1990s, there were serious doubts about the feasibility of applying it to food safety. Pioneering efforts by scientists at U.S. FDA, USDA, and FAO/WHO largely resolved these doubts.” - See more at: