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Source attribution at the food sub-product level for the development of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency risk assessment model

Zanabria, Romina, Racicot, Manon, Leroux, Alexandre, Xucen, Liu, Cormier, Mathieu, Ferrouillet, Cécile, Arsenault, Julie, Mackay, Anna, Griffiths, Mansel, Holley, Rick, Gill, Tom, Charlebois, Sylvain, Farber, Jeffrey, Fazil, Aamir, Quessy, Sylvain
International journal of food microbiology 2019 v.305 pp. 108241
Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, eggs, expert opinion, experts, food inspection, food pathogens, food safety, food service, health policy, pork, poultry, prioritization, resource allocation, source attribution, surveys, uncertainty
Decreasing the health burden caused by foodborne pathogens is challenging and it depends on the identification of the most significant hazards and food sources causing illnesses, so adequate mitigation strategies can be implemented. In this regard, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has developed the Establishment-based Risk Assessment (ERA) model, so that a more effective and efficient allocation of resources can be assigned to the highest food safety risk areas. To assess risk, the model considers the type of food sub-products being manufactured by establishments and its scope is limited to the 17 most important foodborne pathogens representing the highest level of food safety risk. However, the information on source attribution at the sub-product level based on a structured approach is limited. To overcome this challenge, an expert elicitation was conducted in 2016 to estimate the relative contribution and associated certainty of each sub-product for 31 pathogen-commodity combinations to the total Canadian health burden associated with foodborne illnesses (expressed in DALYs). These DALYs represent 78% of the total Canadian health burden associated with federally-regulated food commodities considered within the model. A total of 49 Canadian experts recruited using a “snow ball” sampling strategy participated in the study by completing an electronic survey. Results of the elicitation displayed variable levels of health burden allocation between the pathogens and the different commodity sub-products. Assessment of the certainty levels showed some combinations being evaluated with more confidence (e.g., Campylobacter and eggs/poultry sub-products) than others, where a bimodal distribution of certainty was observed (e.g., Toxoplasma in pork sub-products). Furthermore, no participant raised concerns on the food classification scheme, suggesting their agreement with the proposed sub-products categorization of the elicitation. Relative contribution estimates will be included in the CFIA ERA model and used to enhance its applicability for risk prioritization and effective resource allocation during food establishment inspections. While substantial uncertainty around the central tendency estimates was found, these estimates provide a good basis for regulatory oversight and public health policy.