With HACCP system becoming industry standard world over for ensuring safety of foods manufactured by the organized industry, risk assessment assumes importance and it is imperative for any responsible processor to know the seriousness or the implications of various risks and their magnitude before a remedial program is chalked out. Of all the risks associated with food manufacturing operations, microbial contamination poses the greatest one and unless a full understanding of the impact of presence of pathogens at different stages of manufacture emerges, no worth while programs of containment can be designed. It is true that reliable assessment facilities are required to identify and quantify the extent of microbial contaminants which calls for high investments affordable only to organized large scale processors. A recent report high lighting the difficulties in implementing HACCP amongst small manufacturing facilities dealing with meat products, predicts closure of at least 50% of them if such rigorous control regimes are made compulsory.
'One way to think about the contribution of risk analysis can make to food safety policy could be as a hierarchical, nested sequence of analyses that help decision-makers hone in on where their efforts would reduce risk most. At the most aggregate level, there are basic risk ranking exercises and efforts to monitor the emergence of new hazards. "At the most detailed level, microbial risk assessment examining the way a particular pathogen hazard emerges in the process of supplying a particular food helps risk managers to pinpoint appropriate control points. "If risk ranking of health endpoints provides a broad picture of the distributional impact of food safety risks in the population, risk assessment provides a more detailed picture of how these risks are generated. Using microbial risk assessment for evaluating food borne pathogens is a relatively new application. Even though MRA has been conducted for decades to support policy development in water quality management and space exploration, as late as the early 1990s, there were serious doubts about the feasibility of applying it to food safety. Pioneering efforts by scientists at U.S. FDA, USDA, and FAO/WHO largely resolved these doubts."
While risk assessment as a tool to understand the dangers posed by pathogens will be useful to the whole of the industry, the mandatory steps to implement HACCP based corrective steps may need rethinking. Making aware of the dangers at each and every step of the processing operation and evolving a basic pre-emptive ameliorating package with assured results can be helpful to those who are not in a position to go for HACCP. This is not to belittle the importance of HACCP or consumer safety but a practical approach to address the concerns of small scale food processors with limited resources.