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A simple, spreadsheet-based, food safety risk assessment tool

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 13:23 authored by Thomas RossThomas Ross, John Sumner
The development and use of a simple tool for food safety risk assessment is described. The tool is in spreadsheet software format and embodies established principles of food safety risk assessment, i.e., the combination of probability of exposure to a food-borne hazard, the magnitude of hazard in a food when present, and the probability and severity of outcomes that might arise from that level and frequency of exposure. The tool requires the user to select from qualitative statements and/or to provide quantitative data concerning factors that that will affect the food safety risk to a specific population, arising from a specific food product and specific hazard, during the steps from harvest to consumption. The spreadsheet converts the qualitative inputs into numerical values and combines them with the quantitative inputs in a series of mathematical and logical steps using standard spreadsheet functions. Those calculations are used to generate indices of the public health risk. Shortcomings of the approach are discussed, including the simplifications and assumptions inherent in the mathematical model, the inadequacy of data currently available, and the lack of consideration of variability and uncertainty in the inputs and outputs of the model. Possible improvements are suggested. The model underpinning the tool is a simplification of the harvest to consumption pathway, but the tool offers a quick and simple means of comparing food-borne risks from diverse products, and has utility for ranking and prioritising risks from diverse sources. It can be used to screen food-borne risks and identify those requiring more rigorous assessment. It also serves as an aid to structured problem solving and can help to focus attention on those factors in food production, processing, distribution and meal preparation that most affect food safety risk, and that may be the most appropriate targets for risk management strategies. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


Publication title

International Journal of Food Microbiology










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Elsevier Science BV

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Food safety

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    University Of Tasmania