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Risk assessment in the food industry in four steps

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 11/05/2017

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Food safety is the concern number one of the food industry. In order to always provide the best products and protect their users, food companies get different certifications such as the SQF certification and invest in quality management. They also use risk management to master the status quo in their structure and foresee possible harms and problems.

One way to start solving problems before they occur is the risk analysis. Defined by the Codex Alimentarius, a complete risk analysis is made of three steps: risk management, risk assessment and risk communication.

We will today learn more about risk assessments in the food industry and how to sort your risk assessment easily.

What is the Codex Alimentarius?

From the latin meaning “Food code”, the Codex Alimentarius represents a texts and standards collection regulating the food industry worldwide. Developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a body established in 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The commission is set up by 186 countries and the European Union.

Risk assessment in four steps

As defined by the Codex Alimentarius, a risk assessment is a “scientific evaluation of known or potential adverse health effects resulting from human exposure to foodborne hazards”. The assessment should be conducted through lab analyzes, scientific observations and reports.

The four main steps of a risk assessment are the following ones

Hazard identification

The first step is to properly identify the agents responsible potentially harming health. We can classify three main category of hazards:

  • Biological hazards (bacteria, parasites, virus, …)
  • Chemical hazards (pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, …)
  • Physical hazards (glass, metal, stones, …)

Hazard characterization

Once the hazards have been identified, we need to determine which negative effects they may have on health. The hazard characterization also needs to take into consideration different levels of exposure and the probability of harm they imply.

Exposure assessment

The exposure assessment defines the current public exposure according to the level of consumption over a given period of time. Different exposure groups may be evaluated in order to get a complete overview of the exposure.

Risk characterization

The risk characterization takes in consideration the three previous steps in order to evaluate the risk along with several degrees of exposure and probability.

The risk assessment is only the science based part of the risk analysis. To complete your risk analysis, you will also require risk management and risk communication.

Learn more about Risk Assessment in the food industry


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Tags: document types, risk management