Risk analysisAssessing the risks to guide national food safety programmes Risk analysis provides policy makers with the information and evidence they need for effective and transparent decision-making, contributing to better food safety outcomes and improvements in public health. It provides national food safety authorities with a systematic and disciplined approach for making evidence-based food safety decisions. The risk analysis approach will also enhance communication and coordination between public and private sectors, eg. Numerous food scares all around the world, including dioxin in Germany and Belgium, Salmonella in peanut butter in the U.S.
Taking risks is part of our life as human beings, and our society is well prepared to take risks in almost every domain of our daily life. The concept can be illustrated by considering the risk management of carcinogenic genotoxic substances like aflatoxins, for which the threshold of no adverse effect cannot be calculated or experimentally defined.
Hazard characterization: The starting point of the scientific and technological risk assessment is the hazard characterization, in which the nature of the hazard and the potential adverse effect are investigated. Risk characterization: Using techniques like dose-response curves, the likelihood and impact of the hazard are then investigated.
The collected evidence of the risk assessment is used for the risk management cycle, with the intention of mitigating and managing the risk. Risk evaluation: As part of risk assessment, the likelihood and impact of a hazard on consumers in general are investigated by scientific means.


As an example, to have an appropriate level of protection of babies from birth to 6 months, the food safety objective for C. Risk reduction: Once a risk has been evaluated, it may need to be reduced to comply with the performance objective.
To anticipate potential food safety risks and protect consumers from food safety outbreaks, companies may use a stepwise process, allowing them to identify hazards, gather the scientific and technological evidence and effectively mitigate and manage the risks to achieve an appropriate level of protection. Food Safety Risk Analysis: A Guide for National Food Safety Authorities (Food and Nutrition Paper 87).
The risk analysis paradigm consisting of risk assessment, risk management and risk communication functions is internationally accepted as the best means to develop food safety standards and systems for global food safety. It is used to: develop an estimate of the risks to human health and safety identify and implement appropriate measures to control the risks communicate with stakeholders about the risks and the measures applied Subsequently, with greater knowledge of food safety priority risks, elements of official food control systems will be updated and continually improved to address them. Instead, a threshold has been defined measuring the risk of hepatic cancer in the population as more than 1 case for 106 people.
This may lead to the definition of performance objectives, food safety objectives, maximum residual levels or recommended daily allowances related to specific consumer populations. The next step is to evaluate this risk for a specific product and its application, a certain target group, a particular population, age group, country or region, etc. Providing safe food products to consumers is a shared responsibility of industry, retailers and authorities (Figure 3).


This may result in increased frequency of testing of certain foods, more targeted inspection of sectors of food production or specific producers or processors, introduction of a new regulation or standard, or set of standards, greater preparedness for food safety emergencies. The output of this risk evaluation is a food safety objective to be reached at consumption, which will give the appropriate level of protection for the population.
In the absence of a crystal ball that would allow us to predict the next crisis (Figure 1), there is clearly a need to better anticipate food safety risks to prevent similar crises from happening at all, or at least be prepared to face and manage them effectively, with a minimum impact on consumers. Depending on the availability, scientific depth and applicability of the information, further studies like chemical or microbiological analyses, challenge tests, scientific or medical experiments or a field study may be required.
This food safety objective could be broken down in several performance objectives to be reached at different steps of the food chain and that will participate in fulfilling the overall food safety objective. In particular, any feedback from customers and consumers should be monitored to confirm the level of protection and gain any insights that may suggest that the hazard poses a consumer risk.
Primary packaging materials contain many chemicals that could migrate into the food and pose a risk for consumers. On top of everything, intentional contamination or manipulation of food products cannot be excluded and should also be taken into consideration.



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