Risk It? Risk Analysis Implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean region

December, 2013

Risk analysis has become an increasingly in-demand tool among countries and intergovernmental organizations because of its systematic, scientific and disciplined approach to food safety decision-making. Risk analysis utilizes available science to make the most informed decisions to reduce the risks to humans, plants, and animals. Risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication are three distinct but connected components of risk analysis. Risk analysis principles are so important to food safety that the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint effort of World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, recommends that risk assessment principles be incorporated into a country’s decision-making process.

Despite the recommendations that risk analysis be used in national food safety programs, it is unknown to what extent developing countries implement risk analysis into their decision making practices. As a first step Drs. Fernando Sampedro and Cara Cherry of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, along with the assistance of University of Minnesota Drs. Alicia Hofelich Mohr, Tom Lindsay, Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, and Will Hueston, set out to examine the knowledge and implementation of risk analysis in Latin America and the Caribbean region. To accomplish this, an electronic survey was created and distributed to individuals working in food safety in academia, government, and private food companies throughout the region. Participants answered a knowledge section about their understanding of risk analysis, a section on the level of implementation of risk analysis at their place of work, and a section on the use of risk analysis at their country level.

A total of 279 participants from 23 countries completed the survey Chile, Mexico, and Colombia were the most represented countries. The implementation of risk analysis among the different professional sectors was reported to be low. Countries with a long history of exports with the U.S. such as Mexico and Chile had the highest number of companies with risk analysis implemented indicating that commerce is a driver for achieving high food safety standards. 

We used the majority of government workers’ responses (there was some disagreement among individuals as to the status of the country) to assign a final classification for each country (see map). The countries classified in group “1a” indicated the highest degree of risk analysis implementation whereas “4b” was the lowest. Mexico was reported by participants as the country with the highest implementation of risk analysis. Again exports and free-trade agreements seem to drive the increasing use of a risk-based approach.

The information gathered in this survey points to the need for future training programs in risk analysis in Latin America and the Caribbean region. The results of the survey also illustrate the varied degree of implementation of risk analysis in different professional sectors. By classifying countries into categories, we can design training programs targeted for countries with different level of implementation of risk analysis.

Download or view a details and a map of food safety regulation and risk analysis in Latin America