State of the art in benefit-risk analysis: Food microbiology

S. Magnusson*, H. Gunnlaugsdottir, H. van Loveren, F. Holm, N. Kalogeras, O. Leino, J. Luteijn, G.J. Odekerken-Schröder, M. Pohjola, M.J. Tijhuis, J. Tuomisto, O. Ueland, B. White, H. Verhagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Over the past years benefit-risk analysis (BRA) in relation to foods and food ingredients has gained much attention; in Europe and worldwide. BRA relating to food microbiology is however a relatively new field of research. Microbiological risk assessment is well defined but assessment of microbial benefits and the weighing of benefits and risk has not been systematically addressed. In this paper the state of the art in benefit-risk analysis in food microbiology is presented, with a brief overview of microbiological food safety practices.

The quality and safety of foods is commonly best preserved by delaying the growth of spoilage bacteria and contamination by bacterial pathogens. However, microorganisms in food can be both harmful and beneficial. Many microorganisms are integral to various food production processes e.g. the production of beer, wine and various dairy products. Moreover, the use of some microorganisms in the production of fermented foods are often claimed to have beneficial effects on food nutrition and consumer health. Furthermore, food safety interventions leading to reduced public exposure to foodborne pathogens can be regarded as benefits. The BRA approach integrates an independent assessment of both risks and benefits and weighs the two using a common currency.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been launched in the field of food and nutrition to address the formulation of the benefit-risk assessment approach. BRA has recently been advocated by EFSA for the public health management of food and food ingredients; as beneficial and adverse chemicals can often be found within the same foods and even the same ingredients. These recent developments in the scoping of BRA could be very relevant for food microbiological issues. BRA could become a valuable methodology to support evaluations and decision making regarding microbiological food safety and public health, supplementing other presently available policy making and administrative tools for microbiological food safety management. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Risk assessment
  • Microbiological risk assessment
  • Benefit-risk assessment
  • Food microbiology

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