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Risk Assessment in the Area of Food Safety


Risk assessment is a scientific tool that can be used to evaluate the level of exposure and the subsequent risk to human health due to a specific hazard present in food. In the area of food safety, risk assessment is becoming increasingly required both in the UK and worldwide.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) requested that a list of all risk assessments in the area of food safety, both complete and in progress, be compiled for use as a reference tool. Within the document, the risk assessments are divided into the following sections: antibiotic resistance, chemical risk assessments, microbiological risk assessments and other risk assessments. The hazards are listed alphabetically within each section, and are grouped by country. The risk assessments appear in chronological order, earliest first, and those without a clear completion date have been placed at the end of the appropriate section. For each risk assessment the following information has been sought:
<UL> <LI>

Title of risk assessment
<LI>Contact details of lead researcher
<LI>Completion date
<LI>Time in which the risk assessments was/is to be developed
<LI>Source of funding
<LI>Summary of objectives/outcome of the study
<LI>Further information relating to the risk assessment
It was not always possible to obtain all of this information for each risk assessment within the time constraints of the project, however the document can be updated as required.

In order that the list is as comprehensible as possible, risk assessments that are appropriate to more than one section have intentionally been included in all relevant sections within the document.
Within the context of a food safety risk assessment, a wide range of hazards, foods and approaches have been considered in a number of countries. Table 1.1 shows the number of risk assessments identified for each hazard. In particular, Table 1.1 indicates that a large number of risk assessments have been developed for Salmonella (37), Campylobacter (19), E. coli (17) and Listeria (16). The majority of the risk assessments are quantitative, i.e. a risk assessment that gives a numerical estimate of the risk. Qualitative risk assessments, that describe conclusions on risk estimates in textual terms, are less common.
Most of the food safety risk assessments follow the guidelines produced by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC, 1999) . This involves five steps that identify and evaluate the consequence of a microbiological hazard:
Statement of purpose<BR>

This includes a description of the food safety risk problem and the risk question to be addressed, and outlines anticipated outcomes of the MRA.
Hazard identification<BR>

An evaluation of the risk question being asked. This allows an initial examination of information relating to the deleterious effects of a foodborne hazard.
Exposure assessment<BR>

The development of an exposure pathway and collection of data. For quantitative risk assessments, the construction of a model to estimate the level of exposure to a particular foodborne hazard.
Hazard characterisation<BR>

Evaluation of the effects on human health from exposure to a foodborne pathogen.
Risk characterisation<BR>

Combines all of the previous steps.

More information

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="; target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.

Munday, Dawn
Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK
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