Microbial Risk Management Research Programme (B13)

Details of the Agency-funded microbial risk management research programme.

Aims

The overall aim of this programme is to investigate and develop practical strategies that can be used by government, the food industry and consumers to prevent, control or eliminate incidents of microbiological food contamination.

This research will assist the Agency in obtaining best available scientific evidence for making decisions and in meeting its target of reducing the incidence of foodborne disease by 20% by April 2006.

Abstract

The Government and numerous other organisations provide information to consumers about preventing food poisoning in the home. It is unclear how this information is used and it is thought that consumers do not always follow the advice provided. It would be useful to have sound scientific evidence to show that following such advice reduces the likelihood of contracting illness in the home. Also the outcome of this work will help to decide the most appropriate way to promulgate future food hygiene messages.

The implementation of HACCP within the food production industry is considered the most effective way of improving microbiological food safety. Whilst the principles are the same for all industry sectors, documentation and verification differ widely according to business type. There will be benefits in determining how different parts of the food industry (especially SMEs) should approach to HACCP and minimise disruption during its implementation and ensure food safety. Results will be used to encourage industry to move towards full and effective HACCP implementation.

The Agency believes that a well-trained food industry workforce is important for helping to raise food safety standards and reduce foodborne disease. This programme will include assessment of the impact of training on food safety practices and standards within the UK food industry and also of the need and scope for further developments and enhancements in training to assist in reducing foodborne disease.

On occasions micro-organisms that have not previously posed a threat to human health emerge as human pathogens. These are not isolated events and it is likely that new pathogenic micro-organisms will continue to emerge. To maximise consumer safety we must be prepared for these events and have management procedures available for preventing or minimising human infection.

Rationale

The most significant reduction in the number of cases of foodborne disease over the next five years is likely to come from focussing attention on food preparation. This programme will fund research to help identify the risks associated with food preparation in both the domestic and industrial setting, and investigate how well these risks are managed.

In particular, this programme will fund research on the management of microbiological hazards and risks, looking at ways of encouraging the uptake of HACCP and also at food handlers’ knowledge, beliefs and attitudes.

About 11% of general foodborne outbreaks are associated with food prepared in the home for extended family or community events. Effective controls in this sector have the potential for reducing foodborne disease of all types. This research programme will investigate the relationship between knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, and the preparation of food in the home. A significant reduction in foodborne outbreaks associated with food prepared in the home would make a major contribution to achieving the Agency's target to reduce the incidence of foodborne disease by 20% over a five-year period.

Contact for further information

Name: 
Dr Joanne Aish
Tel: 
020 7276 8965