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Risk and food are on the same plate: World food safety experts offer new methods to assess risk

SEATTLE New methods are in the pipeline to improve the safety of the world's food supply, and the need is imminent, said the director of the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.

Ewen C.D. Todd is organizing the symposium "Food Safety and Risk Assessment: New Approaches to Microbiological Problems" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting today in Seattle. Todd emphasizes that microbiological foodborne hazards, such as listeriosis, are cause for concern today, due to many changes:

  • The globalization and urbanization of developing countries, some without adequate infrastructure systems to handle food and water safety.
  • Growing number of countries reporting increased numbers of foodborne illness through better surveillance systems.
  • Problems with produce contamination, extending the outlook of food risk.
  • Concerns with bioterrorism and possible threats to food security.
  • New patterns of food production, distribution and consumption, including increased travel, eating away from home, and the higher demand for a wide variety of food (issues of trade).
  • Recent recalls and industry losses such as the Pilgrim's Pride Listeria outbreak of 2002 and mad cow disease affecting Canadian and U.S. beef supplies in 2003 and 2004.

    "Scientific risk-based policy is overtaking the cultural and political debate about food," said Todd, referring to the United States' recent single case of mad cow disease. "Countries are creating policies based on risk, not on culture. The current systems of testing and release of products have not proven very effective in reducing foodborne illness."

    Risk assessments are the gathering of quantitative data on the prevalence (whether it occurs) and concentration (how much is present) of foodborne illness for specific foods. Modules from farm to fork help create a mathematical picture about risk for conta
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  • Contact: Tom Oswald
    oswald@msu.edu
    517-355-2281
    Michigan State University
    14-Feb-2004


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