Generic guidance to quantitative microbial risk assessment for food and water

Abstract - Pathogens in food or water can make people ill. The probability of this happening is calculated by means of risk assessments. The World Health Organization (WHO) has drawn up guidelines stipulating how to carry out these risk assessments. RIVM has written this background document with the most recent knowledge on these risk assessments and the newest calculation methods. The WHO and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will use the information to update the guidelines for Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) of food and water. The information is useful for those working with risk assessment of food and water safety. 

An example of the recent developments is a method that enables standard, uniform risk assessment if there are few data available or if the data available are uncertain (Bayesian analysis). RIVM also puts forward alternatives for the use of DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Year) as a measure in the event of outbreaks of disease. DALYs express the harm or inconvenience (disease burden) due to various diseases, including those caused by microorganisms in food and water. This method is not suitable for outbreaks in which many people become ill due to the same pathogen. Furthermore, computer software is available as a tool to conduct risk assessments and for training and education. RIVM gives criteria for such software tools and examples of existing, generally-available QMRA tools.

RIVM is the WHO's collaborating centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water.



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