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Applications of Microbiological Risk Assessments in the Food Chain

Applications of Microbiological Risk Assessments in the Food Chain

The EHEC O104:H4 epidemic outbreak in Northern Germany in the spring of 2011 has shown the great vulnerability of the consumer to emerging pathogens having acquired a deadly combination of virulence factors and being introduced into the food chain through unexpected gateways. The observation that infected sprouted seeds were on the origin of the German outbreak and the French cluster of hemolytic uremic syndrome was crucial to implement the necessary control measures. Although EHEC O104:H4 has never been isolated in Belgium, its absence on vegetables had to be proven in order to help to restore export of Belgian fresh produce to the international markets.

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Other pathogens have also threatened recently the safety of our food chain: Listeria monocytogenes in cheeses, Salmonella spp. in pork sausages and in grinded white pepper, etc. The acquisition of multiple antibiotic resistance genes by many foodborne bacteria and commensal flora is also a food safety issue which cannot be denied any longer. These examples show that the risk for microbial contamination of food stuffs needs continuous attention during primary production, food processing and food handling and preparation during food service and at home.

The Scientific Committee of the Belgian Food Safety Agency has therefore decided to focus this years’ annual symposium on the subject of ‘Applications of microbiological risk assessment in the food chain’. Microbiological risk assessment is a corner stone in safe food production and in the development of an adequate food safety control policy. It is a timely and interesting subject to be discussed with scientists, policy makers and stakeholders in the food chain.

In this symposium general viewpoints on the possibilities and limitations of risk assessment will be dealt with as well as more concrete examples will be explained of the application of microbiological risk assessment. National and international experts will give their opinion on the challenges and bottlenecks of microbiological risk assessment.