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J Food Prot. 2014 Aug;77(8):1428-40. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-046.

Review of various approaches for assessing public health risks in regulatory decision making: choosing the right approach for the problem.

Author information

1
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Office of Public Health Science, Washington, DC 20250, USA. kerry.dearfield@fsis.usda.gov.
2
ORISE fellow at U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA.
3
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Office of Public Health Science, Washington, DC 20250, USA.

Abstract

Stakeholders in the public health risk analysis community can possess differing opinions about what is meant by "conduct a risk assessment." In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all risk assessment that can address all public health issues, problems, and regulatory needs. Although several international and national organizations (e.g., Codex Alimentarius Commission, Office International des Epizooties, Food and Agricultural Organization, World Health Organization, National Research Council, and European Food Safety Authority) have addressed this issue, confusion remains. The type and complexity of a risk assessment must reflect the risk management needs to appropriately inform a regulatory or nonregulatory decision, i.e., a risk assessment is ideally "fit for purpose" and directly applicable to risk management issues of concern. Frequently however, there is a lack of understanding by those not completely familiar with risk assessment regarding the specific utility of different approaches for assessing public health risks. This unfamiliarity can unduly hamper the acceptance of risk assessment results by risk managers and may reduce the usefulness of such results for guiding public health policies, practices, and operations. Differences in interpretation of risk assessment terminology further complicate effective communication among risk assessors, risk managers, and stakeholders. This article provides an overview of the types of risk assessments commonly conducted, with examples primarily from the food and agricultural sectors, and a discussion of the utility and limitations of these specific approaches for assessing public health risks. Clarification of the risk management issues and corresponding risk assessment design needs during the formative stages of the risk analysis process is a key step for ensuring that the most appropriate assessment of risk is developed and used to guide risk management decisions.

PMID:
25198609
DOI:
10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-046
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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