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An Overview of Microbial Food Safety Risk Assessment

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This is an overview of the application of risk assessment for evaluating and managing foodborne microbiological health risks. Risk assessment comprises four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. The process provides a framework for systemic and objective evaluation of all available information pertaining to the foodborne hazard. The outcome of microbial risk assessment is an estimation of the magnitude of human health risk in terms of likelihood of exposure to a pathogenic microorganism in a food and the likelihood and impact of any adverse health effects after exposure. Characterization of the uncertainties and variability in the information used and in the risk estimate itself is part of the overall process. Risk assessment thus provides an objective scientific basis for decision making in ensuring the safety of the food supply. This approach to evaluation and management of microbial food safety risks is still in the developmental stages, but as it evolves it will facilitate the process of establishing microbiological criteria for foods in international trade and guidelines for national standards and policies. Furthermore, a detailed risk assessment can be used to identify critical gaps in our knowledge base, characterize the most important risk factors in the production-to-consumption food chain, help identify strategies for risk reduction, and provide guidance for determining priorities in public health and food safety research programs.


Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Health of Animals Laboratory, Health Canada, 110 Stone Road West, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 3W4

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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