Food Safety And Risk Management

The emerging field of food safety risk analysis is composed of three dependent yet separate fields: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. This trinity of risk-related factors forms the basis for the decisions about chemicals requiring regulation and the type of regulation needed. The ultimate goal of the process is food safety, the prevention of adverse health effects due to exposure to hazardous substances in food. Many different chemicals enter the food supply, including pesticides, natural toxins (such as aflatoxins), metals, and intentionally used food additives.

Risk management is a process to determine what level of risk is significant and to identify, select, and implement options to reduce or minimize levels of risk (1). Probabilistic risk information obtained through the risk assessment process is provided to risk managers who determine what action, if any, should be taken to manage (control) the risk in question. Representatives of both the government and industry sectors are frequently involved in risk management activities.

Risk management provides a regulatory decisionmaking process that involves consideration of political, social, economic, and technological information in addition to simply considering the results from the risk assessment process. As such, risk management requires the use of value judgments on issues such as acceptability of risk and the reasonableness of the costs of control (2).

Although risk assessment and risk management activities must be coordinated, these entities must also maintain some independence to guarantee the scientific integrity of the risk assessment process and to minimize potential conflicts of interest between risk assessors and risk managers (3,4). Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the separation between risk assessment and risk management may not be advantageous or possible, and some authors propose an integrated model, which combines elements of risk assessment and management (5).

Risk management considers risk characterization results, searches for viable options or strategies to minimize or reduce the potential risk, and identifies risk control strategies, if needed, to reduce the risks to acceptable levels. Ideally, a monitoring step should follow to allow an evaluation of the impact of regulatory decision on public health.

Since risk management considers political, economic, and social issues in addition to risk characterization results, optimal risk management decisions should include input from a variety of stakeholders that may be impacted by such decisions. Stakeholders may represent either the public or private sectors and include consumer and environmental organizations, the food industry (producers, processors, distributors, retailers, and restaurants), regulatory bodies, the legislative sector, and trade associations.

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