Risk gains momentum over reaction in worldwide food-safety efforts

By George Miller

To some consumers, it’s becoming a rock-vs.-hard-place choice in food safety: Risk Salmonella and other types of microorganism contamination or choose irradiation as a means to protect against it.

But for food producers, importers, shippers, and regulators, another option involves the use of more sophisticated risk-based techniques to identify problem areas in the food supply chain, monitor them closely, and eliminate the problems at their source. Successful risk-based systems should eliminate the need for lengthy, complicated, and expensive trace-back efforts when contaminated food begins making people sick.

“At the food processor level, we believe in risk-based programs,” says Tom Chestnut, vice president for supply chain, food safety, and quality programs at NSF International (Ann Arbor, MI). NSF is a not-for-profit organization that writes standards for food, water, and consumer goods protection.

“For example, the import system for seafood safety inspections in the U.S. looks at about 2 percent of imports,” he says. “But they use risk-based systems to determine where to look.”

Reactive efforts involve testing at the port of entry or further down the chain, according to Chestnut. However, in the approach developed by NSF and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), “We’re trying to be proactive, to work with suppliers to ensure safety before the product is shipped.”

GFSI is a retail-led network coordinated by CIES


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