Tackling the ongoing issue of risk assessment in the food chain the US food safety agency plans to release two draft risk assessments related to the harmful food pathogen salmonella.
The salmonella bacteria that leads to hefty costs for the public and private sector is a major problem in most countries across the globe and can be carried in eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.
While most foodborne diseases are sporadic and often not reported, foodborne disease outbreaks may take on massive proportions. In 1994, an outbreak of salmonellosis due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the US, affecting an estimated 224,000 persons.
A working group on salmonella infection at the US government FoodNet body claimed in 1999 that estimated annual costs (in 1998 dollars) of medical care andlost productivity due to foodborne Salmonella infections were $0.5 billion (€0.4bn), based on the human capital approach for calculating forgone earnings. Using the less conservative labour market approach, the total annual costs were $2.3 billion (1.85bn).
Salmonella infections were $118 million under both approaches, with two-thirds of these costs due to hospital care.
Developed by the US department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the soon-to-be released documents aim to provide scientific information that the agency can use to develop 'pathogen reduction lethality performance standards' for pasteurised shell eggs and egg products.
The first risk assessment is a quantitative analysis of Salmonella enteritidis in shell eggs and the second is a quantitative risk assessment of Salmonella in pasteurised liquid egg products.
A public meeting on 22 October aims to provide a forum to discuss the technical design and assumptions that were used to create these draft risk assessments.
FSIS inspects and regulates meat and poultry products and processed eggs (eggs that have been removed from their shells for further processing) produced in federally inspected plants.
But in industrialised countries, the percentage of people suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30 percent and in the US, for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year.