The evolution of risk based food safety systems such as HACCP have played a major role in protecting public health and underpinning our efforts in a structured and scientific way. However the practical impact on those in our industry who are required to develop these systems is significant and often characterised by what we don’t know rather than what we do.
There is a well-documented Salmonella case were a food business producing salami products decided to develop a snack version which was smaller and had a higher mass to surface area ratio. The product dried out faster, water activity fell faster and acidity was incomplete. This gave rise to favourable conditions for Salmonella and a recall was required.
The above account highlights the difficulty with microbiological risk assessment (MRA) as part of HACCP. The simple act of producing a smaller version of the same product led to a microbiological hazard that previously did not exist. It also indicates the knowledge required to conduct proper hazard identification.
Much has been written on the subject by experts trying to understand why HACCP plans fail and lead to recalls. Research reviewed by Kane, Mayes & Mortimore identified poor hazard identification and hazard analysis as a significant reason. So how do we conduct microbiological risk assessment in food processing plants? How do we ensure that our risk assessments are robust enough to support our HACCP plans and reduce the chance of product failures?
In the next series of threads I will provide some practical support and resources for conducting MRA. It is not an easy topic to address yet it is an essential part of what we do as people responsible for food safety. Please contribute to the thread and add your own insight and advice.
There are 4 main steps in conducting a Microbiological Risk Assessment:
- Hazard Identification
- Hazard Characterisation
- Exposure Assessment
- Risk Characterisation