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Choices, Choices: The Application of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis to a Food Safety Decision-Making Problem

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In the food safety arena, the decision-making process can be especially difficult. Decision makers are often faced with social and fiscal pressures when attempting to identify an appropriate balance among several choices. Concurrently, policy and decision makers in microbial food safety are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that their policies and decisions are made using transparent and accountable processes. In this article, we present a multi-criteria decision analysis approach that can be used to address the problem of trying to select a food safety intervention while balancing various criteria. Criteria that are important when selecting an intervention were determined, as a result of an expert consultation, to include effectiveness, cost, weight of evidence, and practicality associated with the interventions. The multi-criteria decision analysis approach we present is able to consider these criteria and arrive at a ranking of interventions. It can also provide a clear justification for the ranking as well as demonstrate to stakeholders, through a scenario analysis approach, how to potentially converge toward common ground. While this article focuses on the problem of selecting food safety interventions, the range of applications in the food safety arena is truly diverse and can be a significant tool in assisting decisions that need to be coherent, transparent, and justifiable. Most importantly, it is a significant contributor when there is a need to strike a fine balance between various potentially competing alternatives and/or stakeholder groups.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Public Health Agency of Canada, Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 2: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Animal Health Risk Assessment Unit, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada 3: Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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