Algorithm for Assessing the Risk to Food Safety Posed by a New Animal Disease

07 May 2012
Technical news (uncommented clippings)
Tags: paratuberculosis, MAP, risk

Parker et al. have published the description on an "Algorithm for Assessing the Risk to Food Safety Posed by a New Animal Disease".

The framework helps - as the authors say - to promote objectivity by requiring questions to be answered sequentially and providing the opportunity to record consensus or differences of opinion.

Applying the concept to Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) in meat experts concluded that MAP's potential for (being a) foodborne zoonosis is uncertain and that the precautionary principle applies. Their consensus pathway - with individual deviations - of reasoning was as follows:

  • Answer YES to the question: Does the herd history, clinical investigations, pathology or epidemiology indicate this is an infectious disease?
  • Answer YES to the question: Has the causative organism been identified?
  • Answer YES to the question: Is the causative organism likely to be present in or on animals presented for slaughter?
  • Answer YES to the question: Is contaminated edible tissue likely to remain after slaughter and dressing?
  • Answer UNSURE to the question: Is the organism likely to cause disease in humans?


A difficulty of the framework seems to be the lack of a clear and unambigious distinction between the answering options "unlikely" and "unsure". At TAFS, we try to avoid this difficulty by stating explicitly the criteria we use to assess the evidence of zoonotic potential and the scientific community's gaps of knowledge therein.


Also noteworthy is the authors' statement that "the magnitude of economic loss in these cases [outbreaks of new disease in commercial livestock] appears to be governed by how the risk of zoonotic disease is perceived by consumers, industry and governments." (highlighting by TAFS)


Parker, E. M., Jenson, I., Jordan, D. and Ward, M. P. (2012), Development of an Algorithm for Assessing the Risk to Food Safety Posed by a New Animal Disease. Zoonoses and Public Health, 59: 184–192. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2011.01431.x

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