Microbiological risk assessment

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX) is involved in developing international food safety standards and guidelines. Such standards must be based upon a risk assessment, which is defined as a scientifically-based process consisting of the following steps:

(i) hazard identification,
(ii) hazard characterisation,
(iii) exposure assessment
(iv) risk characterisation.

Risk assessment provides the scientific evidence that informs the risk management decision-making process and risk communication.

Microbiological risk assessment (MRA) is the formal, scientifically-based process to estimate the likelihood (probability) of exposure to a microbial hazard and the resulting public health impact from that exposure. It is based upon the independent assessment of data related to a specific hazard in a food, and involves the following steps.

Hazard identification

The identification of biological, chemical, and physical agents capable of causing adverse health effects and which may be present in a particular food or group of foods.

Hazard characterisation

The qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of the nature of the adverse health effects associated with biological, chemical and physical agents that may be present in food.

Exposure assessment

The qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of the likely intake of biological, chemical, and physical agents via food as well as exposures from other sources if relevant.

Risk characterisation

The qualitative and/or quantitative estimation, including attendant uncertainties, of the probability of occurrence and severity of known or potential adverse health effects in a given population based on hazard identification, hazard characterisation and exposure assessment.

A microbiological risk assessment enables DFSV to clearly identify and understand the impact of a microbial hazard in a dairy food, and this information then supports the identification of suitable control or management measures to mitigate the risk.