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Assessing the Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Measures for Reducing the Prevalence of Food-borne Microbiological Hazards in Ontario


This project aims to contribute to the enhanced cost-effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the incidence of food-borne microbiological hazards through the food supply chain in Ontario and thus contribute to the more effective use of scarce resources in the control of food-borne illness by developing, validating and applying an economic cost-effectiveness framework. The project brings together expertise and on-going research by the Principle Investigators, OMAFRA and other government agencies to identify cost-effective interventions for reducing levels of contamination in priority pathogen/food contexts, taking an entire supply chain approach. Moreover, it will develop a framework that can be used by OMAFRA and other government agencies in developing and implementing measures aimed at the control of pathogens through food supply chains more generally. The project involves the construction of frameworks for assessing the cost-effectiveness of alternative interventions for the control of pathogens in at least two pathogen/food contexts, selected on the basis of consultation with OMAFRA and other provincial and federal government agencies. The framework will consist of three inter-related stochastic simulation models that represent the level and flow of pathogens through the commodity supply chain, impact on pathogen levels of alternative interventions and the costs associated with each intervention. These models will be constructed on the basis of the existing literature and consultation with a wider body of experts, and validated through a workshop of experts and interested parties. The models will be estimated employing data derived from existing research, a Delphi survey of experts and enterprise-level case studies. Having derived the requisite data, simulations will be undertaken to estimate the cost-effectiveness of alternative interventions and their sensitivity to model parameters. These will be validated and their policy implications assessed through a workshop involving experts and interested parties. Dissemination and communications will be undertaken throughout to ensure effective engagement of interested parties in both the public and private sectors.

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Expected Impact of Project Outcomes on Food Safety in Ontario:
As part of its on-going efforts to promote the safety of the food supply in Ontario, aimed at enhancing public health, managing the associated costs of food-borne illness and promoting the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, OMAFRA is exploring ways in which control measures can be enhanced. In the context of inevitable resource constraints, it is imperative that interventions employed along the supply chain to reduce levels of contamination are cost-effective; they achieve significant reductions in pathogen levels when applied in practice for the resources required to be invested. Assessing the cost-effectiveness of alternative control measures is made more complex by the shift in focus towards an entire supply chain or 'farm to fork' perspective, requiring that potential interventions at all levels of the supply chain are examined, both individually and in combination. Such measures might include, for example, the adoption of HACCP at the farm production and/or processing stages, implementation of specific production and/or processing controls, application of good agricultural and/or manufacturing practices, etc. Thus, action might be required (and costs imposed on) both the public and private sectors. Further, actions at one level of the supply chain will impinge on the need for action at another stage, with significant distributional implications. The research proposed here aims to develop and apply a framework that will assist in assessing the cost-effectiveness of alternative interventions, in the context of priority pathogen/food combinations that have been judged to be of high priority. In so doing, the research will contribute to the enhancement of food safety in Ontario, ensuring that available resources are employed in a manner that achieves optimal reductions in levels of contamination and, at the same time, promotes the economic competitiveness of the agri-food sector in the province.<P> For more information, please visit the <a href="; target="_blank">Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Food Safety Research Program</a>.

Henson, Spencer
University of Guelph
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