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Vero-Cytotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157 in Pasteurized Milk Containers at the Point of Retail: A Qualitative Approach to Exposure Assessment

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Dairies within the United Kingdom are classified into two groups, namely, off-farm and on-farm dairies (the latter often being small scale). We propose a model for the probability of milk sold as pasteurized reaching the point of retail contaminated with Vero-cytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) O157 from each of these two pathways. We evaluate qualitatively the exposures inherent in each, and compare and contrast the two situations. The model framework is generic, in that it can in principle be used, with the relevant data modifications, to provide a qualitative assessment of the likely exposure from milk sold as pasteurized to any potentially milk-borne pathogenic organism. Furthermore, the methodological approaches presented are widely applicable in the microbial risk assessment field. The specific example presented will be of particular interest to the UK dairy and public health communities: we conclude that the exposure potential per liter consumed from milk processed in off-farm dairies is negligible, whereas the exposure potential per liter consumed from milk processed on-farm is low, but not sufficiently small to be regarded as negligible. We also identify areas of data sparsity, which need to be addressed for quantitative risk assessment to proceed, and highlight the critical points in the pasteurized milk production chain, which, in the event of a breakdown, have the potential to increase the risk to the consumer.
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Keywords: Exposure assessment; VTEC O157; milk; modular process risk modeling; qualitative risk assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Liverpool UK. 2: Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, College of Sciences, Massey University, New Zealand.

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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