The Role of Risk Analysis in a Science-Based Approach to Food Safety

Charles Yoe

Professor of Economics, College of Notre Dame of Maryland

Traditional food safety management systems with their focus on end-product testing no longer suffice to deal with the complex, persistent, pervasive, and rapidly changing food safety problems of a global economy. Science-based approaches to food safety systems are increasingly in use. Many science-based approaches to food safety have already been implemented successfully. Risk analysis, a process comprising risk management, risk assessment, and risk communication, is an essential element of any science-based food safety system. Risk analysis is a problem-focused paradigm designed to work with ambiguous data, using many people to find the best solution now while looking toward the best solution in the future. Disease surveillance both provides risk assessment with data and is guided by the research needs identified by risk assessment.


Food safety is an essential public health issue for all countries. Foodborne diseases present a real and formidable problem in both developed and developing countries, causing great human suffering and significant economic losses. Up to one-third of the population of developed countries is affected by foodborne diseases each year, and the problem is likely to be even more widespread in developing countries. The true dimensions of the problem are unknown because most cases of foodborne disease are not reported. This absence of reliable data hinders the effectiveness of public health professionals and food safety regulators.

Effective food safety systems are vital to public health, in order to maintain consumer confidence in the food system and provide a sound regulatory founda-

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