Development of an algorithm for assessing the risk to food safety posed by a new animal disease.
An algorithm was developed as a tool to rapidly assess the potential for a new or emerging disease of livestock to adversely affect humans via consumption or handling of meat product, so that the risks and uncertainties can be understood and appropriate risk management and communication implemented. An algorithm describing the sequence of events from occurrence of the disease in livestock, release of the causative agent from an infected animal, contamination of fresh meat and then possible adverse effects in humans following meat handling and consumption was created. A list of questions complements the algorithm to help the assessors address the issues of concern at each step of the decision pathway. The algorithm was refined and validated through consultation with a panel of experts and a review group of animal health and food safety policy advisors via five case studies of potential emerging diseases of cattle. Tasks for model validation included describing the path taken in the algorithm and stating an outcome. Twenty-nine per cent of the 62 experts commented on the model, and one-third of those responding also completed the tasks required for model validation. The feedback from the panel of experts and the review group was used to further develop the tool and remove redundancies and ambiguities. There was agreement in the pathways and assessments for diseases in which the causative agent was well understood (for example, bovine pneumonia due to Mycoplasma bovis). The stated pathways and assessments of other diseases (for example, bovine Johne's disease) were not as consistent. The framework helps to promote objectivity by requiring questions to be answered sequentially and providing the opportunity to record consensus or differences of opinion. Areas for discussion and future investigation are highlighted by the points of diversion on the pathway taken by different assessors.