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Microbial Risk Analysis of Foods

Editors: Donald W. Schaffner1, Michael P. Doyle2
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Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; 2: , University of Georgia Center for Food Safety
Content Type: Monograph
Format: Electronic, Hardcover
Publication Year: 2008

Category: Applied and Industrial Microbiology; Food Microbiology

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Microbial risk analysis is one of the fastest changing areas across the entire field of microbiology. It also is becoming more critical to food safety and to international trade. This landmark volume, the third in the series , provides an invaluable explanation of microbial risk assessment of foods and clear interpretations of its implications.

With improved computer technology and an increasingly complex food production and distribution system, microbial risk analysis has emerged as a crucial food safety tool. Additionally, because of the World Trade Organization's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, microbial risk analysis has become essential for countries assessing the risks of domestically produced foods and imported foods. This book goes beyond the basics of microbial risk assessment to include the relationship between risk assessment and other microbial food safety concepts, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Objective (FSO) approaches. Finally, a practical case study chapter puts the book's key concepts to work in a real situation.

This volume takes a comprehensive and expansive approach to the subject of microbial risk assessment. It will be invaluable for beginning risk assessors who need to take the next step in their education. It will also be a useful resource for university researchers, graduate students, industry analysts, and government risk managers.

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Quarterly Review of Biology

17 August 2013

Microbial risk assessment for food safety is a discipline in tumult. There is a push to convert it from a standards-based discipline where regulators precisely specify the measures and practices to be taken to ensure the safety of foods to a performance-based discipline where only the final result (expressed perhaps in terms of illnesses per serving or illness per year) is specified and individual operators are free to use whatever measures and practices they find economical to achieve the demanded level of safety. This represents a profound change, and it introduces a good deal of uncertainty for both analysis and decision-makers. The transition will require that the assessment approach itself be updated to include more comprehensive quantitative methods that assess risks probabilistically. Biological methods, and perhaps will need to invent others to meet their challenges.

On top of these confusing issues, everyone has been witness to more and more media attention on the dramatic failures of the safety systems in food production and distribution. For instance, illnesses thought to be due to contaminated fresh tomatoes dominated health and consumer news in the summer of 2008. The previous summer, the recall of spinach was big news. Over the last several years, there has been a sequence of record-setting recalls of ground beef potentially contaminated with a virulent strain of E. coli (the latest being 143 million pounds in February 2008). This media attention is The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 75 million cases of gastrointestinal illnesses resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths each year in the United States from foodborne diseases. Although the prevalences of food contaminants such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter had been generally declining over the previous decade, the incidences of illnesses have stayed fairly constant in recent years, and 2007 saw a sharp spike in recalls.

Microbial Risk Analysis of Foods is a collection of seven chapters by internationally recognized authorities. It is typical of volumes published by professional societies, which are not known for their high production values or careful editing. Abbreviations are sometimes used before or without definition. Some important ideas are explained incompletely or presumed to be in the reader's general knowledge. The index is uneven. It has entries for "fungi," "knowledge deficit model," and "television, as potential source of food safety information," but lacks entries for "probability," "distributor," or "Monte Carlo." Each chapter is, in its own way, an introduction to microbial risk analysis and independent of the others. Missing from the volume is the discourse that would come from the authors' reading and reacting to one another's chapters. Despite its deficiencies, however, the book is a welcome contribution that comes at a critical time for the discipline.

The other chapters have more traditional views about risk analysis. for example, Chapter 2 explains the evolving use of risk analysis in decision -making. It also gives a brief but helpful review of probabilistic methods, including two-dimensional methods that distinguish natural variability from the analyst's uncertainty (partial ignorance). The chapter offers a concise and very clear discussion of the interplay between variability and uncertainty in the context of risk assessments. The fourth chapter (by Maarten J. Nauta) describes what I think deserves to be called the state of the art in microbial risk analysis for food safety, which uses probability distributions in Monte Carlos simulations of inoculation, microbe population growth, and distribution pathways from farm to table. The author acknowledges there are drawbacks to this approach, but it would have been far more helpful to readers if Nauta and Woolridge could have more directly debated the subject.

Chapters 3 and 7 focus on issues that make microbial risk analysis especially interesting. The third chapter is a fairly long scholarly review of many aspects of microbial ecology that are important in food safety, including lag phases, the hurdle concept (synergism between multiple factors that inhibit microbial growth), and effects of correlations and interactions such as the Jameson effect in which the first microbe species to reach its carrying capacity inhibits the growth of other species. Chapter 7 is a thorough-albeit standard-review of risk communication. It focuses on the need for the communicator to know the audience, most of whom are poorly educated about microbes and the risks they pose. It includes an interesting review of the legacy in public awareness from commercial advertisements for germ-killing products.

Two other chapters address many of the practical details that academics sometimes gloss over. Chapter 5 reviews the discipline from a regulator's perspective and considers fundamental questions such as whether a risk assessment should even be undertaken, how much it will cost, how it can be used in the context of regulatory decisions, and how approaches used by authorities in different countries can be harmonized. The following chapters is a case study that illustrates many of the ideas described in the other articles. It describes a quantitative (although not fully probabilistic) risk assessment for contamination of infant formula by Enterobacter sakazakki. The case study shows how data must often be cobbled together from disparate sources to populate the variables in the risk expressions.

Tracing and tracking problems seem to be emerging as an inherent weakness in the current food production and distribution system. For example, industrial meat packing in the United States aggregates animals from many suppliers in holding lots where microorganisms can cross contaminate them. Commercial meat grinders combine products from different carcasses. Vegetable packing practices that select produce by grade from many suppliers likewise mixes products from different farms across multiple countries in a globally interconnected system of amazing complexity. This mixing means that the source of contamination producing illnesses during the summer of 2008 may never be identified. The economic forces and industry trends that concentrate production and interconnection distribution operations create more opportunities for cross contamination, but they should also create greater accountability and foster better tracking technologies. Likewise, they should create considerable economies of scale that reward the
application of comprehensive microbial risk analyses.

The Quarterly Review of Biology

Reviewer: Scott Ferson, Applied Biomathematics, Setauket, New York

Review Date: December 2008

Doody Enterprises

01 February 2013

At A Glance

This landmark volume, the third in the series "Emerging Issues in Food Safety", provides an invaluable explanation of microbial risk assessment of foods and clear interpretations of its implications.

Description

This book describes the use of risk analysis to prevent the contamination of food with microbial pathogens. The editor notes that this is a new and emerging focus in the field of microbial food safety.

Purpose

It specifically focuses on ways to use risk analysis and why this area of research has emerged as a vital tool to developing a safe food chain. This field has developed along with the computing technology that can take into consideration the complexities of food production and distribution. This is likely to be used by many in the discipline.

Audience

This is the first book I have seen that specifically outlines the process of risk analysis and the relationship between microbial risk assessment and microbial food safety. Each chapter covers specific topics in risk assessment such as modeling the risk, analysis of the food process, discussion of pathogens that can contaminate food and using quantitation of microbial agents to assess risk or harm to the consumer. An intriguing chapter details where these microbial contaminants may exist in the environment where food is grown or harvested. It then shows an evaluation of how these pathogens exist and grow in these natural environments. This is followed by an example of how this information is use in a risk analysis. Also helpful are the chapters that include case studies to demonstrate the practical aspect of risk analysis.

Features

This is the first book I have seen that specifically outlines the process of risk analysis and the relationship between microbial risk assessment and microbial food safety. Each chapter covers specific topics in risk assessment such as modeling the risk, analysis of the food process, discussion of pathogens that can contaminate food and using quantitation of microbial agents to assess risk or harm to the consumer. An intriguing chapter details where these microbial contaminants may exist in the environment where food is grown or harvested. It then shows an evaluation of how these pathogens exist and grow in these natural environments. This is followed by an example of how this information is used in a risk analysis. Also helpful are the chapters that include case studies to demonstrate the practical aspect of risk analysis.

Assessment

This unique topic is not well appreciated. I found it interesting and this book will be a valuable resource for those scientists who seek to protect the food chain from harmful infectious agents.

Doody Enterprises

Reviewer: Rebecca Horvat, PhD, D(ABMM) (University of Kansas Medical Center)

Review Date: Unknown

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