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THE MICROBIOLOGICAL. RISK ASSESSMENT OF FOOD. S.J. Forsythe. Department of Life Sciences. Nottingham Trent University.
Table of contents



Risk assessment is a structured process for determining the risk associated with any type of hazard -biological, chemical, or physical-in a food. It has as its objective a characterization of the nature and likelihood of harm resulting from human exposure to agents in food. The characterization of risk typically contains both qualitative and quantitative information and is associated with a certain degree of scientific uncertainty. There are four very distinct steps in the risk assessment process.

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The first step is hazard identification, which involves the collection, organization, and evaluation of all information pertaining to a pathogen or a nutrient. Second is hazard characterization, which determines the relationship between a pathogen and any adverse effects. Third is exposure assessment, which involves determining how much of pathogen might be ingested in a serving of food. The fourth, and last step, is risk characterization, which involves evaluating the risk and related information.

Risk assessment provides structured information that allows decision makers to identify interventions that can lead to public health improvement and provides a basis for them to use in weighing the options. These options include regulatory action when necessary, but also include a broad range of options such as voluntary activities and educational initiatives. Risk assessment also can be used to identify data gaps and target research that should have the greatest value in terms of public health impact.

For instance, plants can use a risk assessment to help identify hazards that are reasonably likely to occur. Subsequently, the risk assessor determines the level of exposure to the hazard either by analysing products or by describing the complete route from the raw materials, transport, processing, and storage to consumption Fig. Finally, the risk assessor combines the exposure data with data on the dose-response relationship and severity of the effects, in a final risk estimate Risk Characterization, Fig.

This estimates the probability and the severity of illness due to a particular pathogen in a particular food, in a specific group of consumers. Mathematical models are often used to estimate risk when there are several input parameters. Traditionally, single values or point estimates are assumed for input parameters such as initial count and storage temperature.

The value can be based on the mean value, on a conservative estimation, or on a worst-case scenario. However, single value parameters cannot take into account the natural variability of the input parameters. This can be done by replacing single values with probability distributions By using Monte Carlo simulation, the various probability distributions can be combined, resulting in a probability density function with attendant uncertainties as shown in Fig. Monte Carlo simulation thus incorporates the effect of a range of possible input parameters into the estimated risk.

In other studies a relative risk is presented to allow comparison of various pathways and control options 2, Alternatively, parameters can be compared using the Spearman rank correlation, such as shown in Fig. A large correlation, either negative or positive, indicates that the input parameter is an important factor determining the risk.

Spearman rank correlation between the estimated probability of illness and the fifteen most important predictive factors determining the probability of illness caused by E. H7 in ground beef hamburgers as predicted by the Process Risk Model as presented by Cassin et al. A positive value of the rank correlation indicates that the predictive factor is positively related with the probability of infection, while a negative factor correlates to a decrease in probability.

It should be noted that the rank correlations depend on the way the predictive factors are defined. Copyright , with permission from Elsevier Science. Attemps have also been made to convert a risk estimate into costs to society, because it allows different types of risk to be compared. McNab 20 presented a framework by which direct and indirect costs to society due to food poisoning are included. We have chosen the following studies as examples of different ways of presenting the risk estimate, and of the decision-making that is based on it. The Codex procedure is meant to be used by government risk assessors and managers, the selection of risk assessments has been done with this in mind.

He considered various hazards associated with cracked eggs, but found Salmonella to be the only hazard of concern. After using mean values to calculate a point estimate, he estimated that the probability of illness from eating cracked eggs is 1 in , although the probability is higher for certain populations. Expressed as a relative probability; cracked eggs are 3 to 93 times more likely to cause illness than uncracked eggs. The same study suggests eight options to manage the use of cracked eggs and discusses their effectiveness and feasibility without making a quantitative comparison.

Van der Logt et al. They considered the probability of infection, the severity of the symptoms and the uncertainties. The authors compared the number of infections per year due to beef consumption with and without routine beef inspection. They conclude that the severity of infection is limited and that routine beef inspection has a negligible impact on risk reduction; thus, they question the value of routine beef inspections for Taenia saginata.

Whiting and Buchanan 27 developed a Monte Carlo simulation model to calculate the probability of illness due to Salmonella enteritidis in whole liquid eggs, using four scenarios for pasteurisation and storage. The authors indicate that their model can directly relate food processing operations to the probability of illness, thus facilitating decision making. In a production process, risk assessment can be used to define quantitatively various options for critical control points.

The authors do not discuss the possible use of their results by government risk managers. Van Schothorst 25 used market surveillance data from Germany on the presence and levels of the microorganism in a wide variety of foods to determine the risk from consuming small numbers of Listeria monocytogenes. He linked these data with the frequency of listeriosis and chose a worst-case scenario; i. They suggested a best-case scenario in which the eggs are directly after laying cooled down to a temperature of 7. The authors indicate that any alternative scenario should be complemented with a cost-effectiveness study and cost-benefit analysis before choosing the optimal strategy.


  • Critical notes on microbiological risk assessment of food;
  • About microbiological risk assessment (MRA) in food.
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H7 from the farm to consumption in hamburger patties. They identify the most important factors affecting risk and compare three hypothetical mitigation strategies. The authors state that their model can be used to allocate resources to risk reduction strategies that are immediately feasible. They related incidence of listeriosis cases and deaths according to different consumption patterns, and demonstrated the efficiency of various management options.

The authors stress that the data are of poor quality, resulting in considerable uncertainty. They used four temperature scenarios and applied several conservative assumptions. The authors do not discuss the use of their results for other than scientific purposes. The list of examples shows that risk assessors have struggled with the techniques and have published a limited number of risk estimates. Only some of these risk assessment studies are aimed at government risk managers. According to the Codex definition, Risk Assessment is a scientific evaluation of the probability of occurrence and severity of adverse health effects, including attendant uncertainties.

Once an estimate is made, government risk managers have to decide whether control measures are necessary, which options are available and which control measures can or should be taken to prevent or reduce foodborne illness. For example, they may decide that various control measures can be taken to reduce the risk of salmonellosis caused by eggs. How can a scientifically established Risk Estimate help decision making? First, a Risk Estimate may help risk managers to set priorities. It is most important to regulate foods that are likely to make someone seriously ill.

An evaluation of the different scenarios presented in the risk assessment may also help in choosing the most effective intervention. In this respect it is useful if a risk assessment study presents not only the current situation, but also scenarios that describe the effect of feasible control measures. This could help identify the most critical control points. A major problem with Risk Assessment is confusion about terminology. Many publications titled "Risk Analysis" deal with something that does not correspond to the Codex definition. For example, the paper "Risk Analysis of a thermal sterilisation process" 1 is an estimation of the probability that spores of Cl.

ILSI 13 mentioned "analysis" as a part of the Risk Assessment process and a study describing methods for predictive modelling, to be used in exposure assessment, was called Risk Assessment McNab 19 identified three models for performing Risk Assessment. In our opinion, the term Risk Analysis, with its three components Risk Assessment, Risk Management and Risk Communication, should be reserved for the total process Fig.

The conference program will focus on the newest concepts and tactics to promote consumer food safety behaviors. It is intended to empower participants to improve public health outcomes through discussion of topics such as:. This is the fifth such conference and will include discussion by federal officials, leading researchers, and consumer advocates on ways to advance the knowledge, practice, and reach of food safety and health educators in support of Healthy People goals to reduce infections caused by key pathogens transmitted commonly through food FS-1 and increase the proportion of consumers who follow key food safety practices FS For information and registration, visit www.

As a practical aspect, Feist encourages companies to begin food safety education with their own people. In addition to Good Egg Project, the American Egg Board increases consumer awareness and education by working with social media to:. Butterworth encourages companies to use the knowledge of technical and scientific experts and let them say it their way, rather than developing a public relations campaign on food safety topics. You have to give them media training.

You have to find these people, then you have to step back. The author is Editor of QA magazine.

Microbiological Risk Assessment in Food Processing | ScienceDirect

She can be reached at llupo gie. Walking the talk and talking the walk. Rey sees it as a corporate responsibility for large businesses to lead the industry in food safety and innovation. Rey was the first food manufacturing representative to join GFSI, which was begun as a retail initiative. He had heard about GFSI and its harmonizing standards, and realized that it was an initiative that would be beneficial to the entire supply chain.

So in , he joined the GFSI board. Food fraud, and its potential food safety issues such as that of melamine , is just one aspect of emerging risk that is of global concern. For example, Rey said, Danone knows the fingerprint necessary for milk to meet its requirements.

The Microbiological Risk Assessment of Food

Although Danone considers food safety to be non-competitive, during such testing, the research is maintained as a proprietary initiative. But once the result is attained and verified, it is then shared and made non-competitive, Rey said. To truly create global harmonization in food safety, it is necessary for all stakeholders—the public and private sectors as well as academia and consumers—to join in one collaborative food safety effort, not only for public health, country economies, and social stability, but also for business profitability and sustainability.

The implementation of harmonized standards that provide for continuous improvement in global trade and food safety also is becoming more critical for consumer confidence in safe food delivery. Such confidence and safe global delivery will only become more important as the consumer picture continues to change. Consumers increasingly are desiring diversity in their foods, and have the income to afford it.

At the same time, the size of the global consumer base is increasing, with estimates that the world population will reach nine billion by Because we already have limited farmland and fresh water, managing that, as well as food safety, will be critical, he said. Elected as vice chairmen were Neil Marshall, global director, quality and food safety strategy, policy, and programs, The Coca-Cola Company; and Mike Robach, vice president, food safety, quality and regulatory affairs, Cargill. Rey has been a strong advocate of the importance of collaboration between the private and public sectors and has contributed to building partnerships with key stakeholders.

Given the growing importance of Asia and its role in the global supply chain, GFSI needs to grow its presence in this part of the world. Through the development and continuous improvement of successfully benchmarked schemes, applicable from farm to fork, GFSI has gained momentum and recognition. As Rey passed over the chairmanship of the global initiative that he led for the past two years, what does he see as the greatest accomplishments and needs of GFSI?

But there is a gap between food safety risk and the cost to achieve it. The detection of food contaminants—whether this be pesticide residue in produce, antibiotics in beef, Salmonella in poultry, gluten in baked goods, or wood slivers in grain—is a continually improving science. With such evolving technology, the question is: Can elimination keep up with detection? The question of chasing zero is further challenged by the variation in accepted tolerance based not only on the contaminant itself, but also on the country manufacturing or importing the food.

And even among a class of contaminants, e. Take Listeria and Salmonella as examples: In relation to Salmonella , there is contradiction within the U. With the ever-lowering detectability levels, what, exactly, is zero? What does chasing it to the nth degree really mean for the industry and to the consumer—pro and con? In this article, we present a look at the pros and cons of Chasing Zero from both the industry and consumer viewpoints. Additionally, with the number and breadth of factors involved in zero tolerance pro and con, this can be only a simplification of the sides, posed as a generator for discussion.

Furthermore, microbiological testing methods sometimes mis-identify harmless microorganisms as dangerous pathogens. While we must do everything we can to ensure that food is safe to eat, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when discussing zero tolerance, including infective dose, industry and consumer cost, food security, sampling methods, farm-through-fork responsibility—and the source of the food itself.

In one way or another, all food is grown in nature. By its very definition, nature is not contaminant free. Produce sits on or in the ground, takes in ground waters, and is subject to droppings of birds flying overhead. It is for such reasons that Salmonella in chicken is not considered to be an adulterant, and for such reasons that the responsibility for food safety, and pathogen elimination, must rest with the entire food chain—including the consumer.

There is no question that farmers, breeders, suppliers, and manufacturers must all exercise due diligence in preventing and eliminating pathogens, and other contaminants, to ensure that food is safe to eat. In most cases, elimination comes down to the application of a kill step; and, in some cases, that kill step needs to reside with the consumer. Chicken is, again, an obvious argument here. Thus, in this case, the chicken is safe to eat, if consumers do their part in applying the kill step.

It is at this point that cost, sampling, and infective dose also come into play. One standard food safety practice is that of sampling. Add to that the fact that technology has enabled detection to ever lower levels, below infective doses and below the ability to eliminate, then put it into the context of zero tolerance. If a nano level of a pathogen is detected in a single sample taken in a lot, the entire lot will be destroyed or recalled if already distributed—even when the detected level is below an infective dose; that is, it has no relevance to food safety.

The lower this detection goes, the higher the costs to both the industry and the consumer. It is a cost that is not simply related to dollars and cents, but also to sustainability. As we go forward in time, can we afford to throw away ever larger amounts of product due to ever-lower detection when there are options for end-user elimination? Consumers need to understand the role they play in food safety and do their part to follow label directions, ensure against cross contamination, and maintain food-safe storage and handling practices.

Zero tolerance is still zero tolerance, but it is for the entire food chain; the consumer has a responsibility too, and sometimes needs to be the source of the kill step. If you get Salmonella or L. In determining the need for zero tolerance, there are a number of factors to consider, but it really all comes down to consideration for the consumer.

We are all consumers. As such, do you want to buy food that is contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, E. Do you want to take the chance of serving a food to your family that may have levels of these pathogens because it is tolerated? This is already true with some pathogens, such as E. But that is not enough. We need to continue to work to get better control of all pathogens, such as Salmonella. Technology is enabling lower and lower detection, and there is no question that this is providing a challenge for the industry in controlling to those levels.

However, zero is achievable in control as well as detection.

If you look at where we were ten years ago and where we are now, you see significant improvement in the effectiveness of technology. We need to continue moving in that direction—for both detection and control. We need to strive for zero. And the industry should have the desire to do so, to continually improve; not simply take on responsibility in response to regulation. Yes, the consumer has a responsibility to properly prepare and cook food, but consumers should be able to expect that the industry is doing everything it can to place safe food on their tables.

However, regulation will not carry us to zero unless industry has the desire to get there. The cost of chasing zero is a challenging question, but we have to look at all the different ways we can work toward elimination. There will likely be some investment needed, but you have to look at the big picture—the overall cost of recalls, liability, closures, etc. And look at the human costs associated with foodborne outbreaks caused by pathogens that go undetected and uncontrolled: Although this may or may not come back to bear on a specific company, it is a cost—and responsibility—that industry must bear.

While consumers may be willing to pay a higher price for safer food, there should be a balance in which the industry accounts for a lowered risk, and associated costs, of outbreaks and recalls, before passing along the full investment cost to the consumer. In January, a poultry producer was ordered to suspend operations because of cockroaches in the plant. Whether or not the plant knew it had cockroaches is not known, but because of cockroach habits and behavior, it can be very easy for an infestation to build before you even know they are in your facility.

To assist food manufacturers in detecting and eliminating cockroaches—before they become an issue, we asked some cockroach control experts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cockroaches and their control in and around food and beverage processing plants. Cockroaches are cryptic and primarily nocturnal insects. They prefer to be in the dark, so when they do come out of hiding, it is often when no one is present and there is little to no light.

They generally only come out into the light if they have to, for example, to get food or due to overpopulation. Thus, cockroach sightings that occur when people are present, during the day, or under lit conditions may indicate the presence of a severe infestation.

Use of @RISK in Food Safety Risk Assessment - Palisade Webcast

There are several ways that cockroaches can gain access to a building. All incoming materials should be routinely inspected for a potential pest infestation. Employees also may carry cockroaches to work with them on their personal belongings. The sewers and floor drains can provide a never-ending route for cockroaches to enter the building unless the sewer connection is addressed. Additionally, large cockroaches, such as American, Oriental, brown and Turkestan species, can survive outdoors in southern regions.

Conducive conditions around plants need to be evaluated and monitored to eliminate or reduce potential harborage.