|Food Safety Issues Associated with Products from Aquaculture (WHO - OMS, 1999, 55 p.)|
Inherent in all human activities, including activities related to food production, are hazards that may adversely affect peoples health. The identification of hazards and the determination of their relevance for health, as well as their control, is the function of risk analysis. Risk analysis is an emerging discipline in food safety, and the methodological basis for assessing, managing and communicating about risks associated with foodborne hazards is, at the international level, still developing. However, risk analysis is today widely recognized as the fundamental methodology underlying the development of food safety standards that both provide adequate health protection and facilitate trade in food.
The rules that govern international trade in food were agreed during the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and apply to all Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). With regard to food safety, rules are set out in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement). According to the SPS agreement, WTO members have the right to take legitimate measures to protect the life and health of their populations from hazards in food, provided that the measures are not unjustifiably restrictive of trade. Such measures need to be based on risk analysis, and to take into consideration risk analysis techniques developed by relevant international organizations.
With regard to food safety, the relevant organization is the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). In order to facilitate and harmonize risk analysis, the CAC has adopted a number of definitions. Risk analysis is a process consisting of three components: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. The definitions of these three components as currently used by CAC can be found elsewhere (4).
There is a fundamental difference between a hazard and a risk. A hazard is a biological, chemical or physical agent in food, or a condition of food, with the potential to cause harm. In contrast, risk is an estimate of the probability and severity in exposed populations of the adverse health effects resulting from hazard(s) in food. Understanding the association between reduction in hazards associated with food and reduction in risk to consumers is of central importance in the development of appropriate food safety controls.
In the light of this association, the Study Group reviewed the biological and chemical hazards inherent in aquaculture products, along with their associated risks (sections 4 and 5); proposed strategies for food safety assurance applicable to the aquaculture sector (section 6); and identified research needs (section 7). The Study Groups conclusions and recommendations can be found in section 8.