Foodborne bacterial diseases cause considerable morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Preventive measures such as good manufacturing practices (GMP), supplemented by the hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) system, have been introduced as a means of ensuring the production of safe food. However, their use does not necessarily provide quantitative information on the risks associated with the consumption of a particular food product. To obtain such information, elements of quantitative risk analysis (QRA) need to be used. QRA is defined as a stepwise analysis of the health risks associated with a specific type of food product, resulting in an estimation of the probability of occurrence of adverse effects on health following consumption of the food in question. It also includes an analysis of the nature of the risks. Taking this definition, five successive steps can be recognized: hazard identification, exposure assessment, dose response assessment, risk characterization and risk management. Food production is a dynamic activity, involving changes in, e.g. the composition and microbial quality of raw materials due to seasonal variation. Also, there may be continuing changes in processing conditions and in product composition due to consumer demands. Therefore, it will be desirable to incorporate QRA in existing safety assurance systems, such as HACCP, when sufficient information is available to permit this approach.
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