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A Novel Evidence-Based Tool in Support of Food Safety Policy Development


Policy makers are increasingly dealing with complex food safety and public health issues such as BSE, antimicrobial resistance, avian influenza, food-borne and other emerging pathogens and hazards. The recently published 'Justice Haines Report' has strongly recommended the use of a science-based approach to food safety and more transparent food safety policy making in Ontario. In a world where information is only a click away, food safety professionals and policy makers need to identify information in a timely way, and to appraise and synthesize the best evidence on targeted issues. They also need to refine this evidence, to evaluate risks and to select optimal mitigation strategies within the Ontario context. Therefore, this research team, comprising researchers from two Canadian universities (Guelph, McMaster), two governmental agencies (Public Health Agency of Canada and OMAF) and collaborators from Iowa State University, proposes the development and evaluation of a novel evidence-based tool as a potential standard tool in support of food safety policy.

The tool will combine two existing knowledge synthesis and knowledge transfer methodologies. These are systematic review and risk assessment. Although they have been extensively used individually in other professional sectors, this is the first attempt to combine and adapt them to food safety policy making. The first methodology will enable trained research teams to identify, evaluate, rank and summarize, qualitatively and quantitatively, the best existing evidence on targeted issue(s). The second methodology will utilize this evidence and synthesize it into a characterization of the system so as to model risks associated with different scenarios/options. The tool will be evaluated using one relevant food safety and trade issue, namely 'Salmonella in pork'. This issue was selected because of recent international and domestic trends that indicate an urgent need for policy development. However, it will be applicable to any food safety issue and agri-food sector in Ontario.

The project will be carried out in two phases. In phase 1, the research team will develop and evaluate the protocol for conducting systematic reviews on food safety effectiveness research. A rigorous and transparent systematic review will be conducted to evaluate and rank the effectiveness of potential on-farm interventions against Salmonella in swine and their estimated impacts on Salmonella reduction. In phase 2, quantitative risk assessment models will be developed to refine selected interventions, to evaluate risks throughout the pork chain and to select optimal mitigation strategies against Salmonella within the environment of the Ontario pork production system.<p>
A transparent, evidence-based summary and recommendations will be communicated to Ontario's policy makers and pork industry. The needs, gaps and opportunities for using systematic review and risk assessment as a potential standard tool in support of evidence-based food safety policy making will be evaluated.

More information

Expected Impact of Project Outcomes on Food Safety in Ontario: <ul>

<li>A novel evidence-based tool will be developed and evaluated as a potential standard tool in support of food safety policy making in Ontario.
<li>The resulting tool will support timely and informed food safety policy making in Ontario.
<li>Ontario's policy makers and agri-food sectors will negotiate existing and forthcoming food safety issues based on powerful and sound evidence.
<li>Baseline and other research data generated through previous OMAF-funded projects will be utilized in support of food safety policy making.
<li>The resulting information will allow the Ontario pork industry to appropriately evaluate interventions against Salmonella in pork and to make informed policy decisions regarding potential control options.</ul> <P> For more information, please visit the <a href="; target="_blank">Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Food Safety Research Program</a>.

McEwen, Scott
University of Guelph
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