Risk Assessment of Malicious Biocontamination of Food

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Throughout the last decades of the 20th century, the biological threat evolved from primarily a government-controlled weapon to a tool of terrorism. One of the consequences of this trend is the near impossibility of foreseeing when and how an act of bioterrorism will occur. The suitability of food products for such an act stems from the multitude of microorganisms that may be used for contamination and the vulnerability of the products during and after processing. Tests that would enable the detection of a large variety of microorganisms quickly, reliably, and economically should also provide satisfactory means to prevent acts of malicious biocontamination of food products. Until such means become available, a priority-based approach to the problem is probably the most practical. Priorities should be determined based on a systematic risk assessment to define the relative likelihood of a certain microorganism being used in an act of malicious food contamination. Criteria to be evaluated are availability, weaponization processes, delivery of an effective dose, probability of early detection, and the microorganism's resistance to the conditions to which it will be exposed. Because the results of such an assessment may vary according to prevailing conditions, the assessment must be based on the existing circumstances. The results of the assessment should then be applied to the various procedures of food processing, which should further reduce the number of potential microbial threats. Existing methods of screening food for contaminating microorganisms and existing food safety and security procedures such as hazard analysis and critical control point programs may have to be modified to become suitable for the detection of acts of bioterrorism.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Clinical Bacteriology and Mycology, Kimron Veterinary Institute, P.O. Box 12, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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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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