What is Risk Analysis?
Risk analysis is a systems-level management tool to rigorously, objectively and scientifically evaluate, manage and communicate human, animal and environmental risks based on local realities. It usually requires a proactive multi-sector, trans-disciplinary approach. Risk analysis was identified by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary agreement in 1994 as an effective tool to manage human, animal or plant life risks and to avoid unjustifiable barriers to trade. We based our analyses in international standards recognized by WTO for harmonization of risk analysis tools: i) CODEX Alimentarius for food safety risk analysis; ii) World animal health organization (OIE) for animal and wildlife health risk analysis. Risk analysis has been thoroughly implemented by food safety and animal health organizations around the world for using the science available to make the most informed decisions to reduce the risks to humans, plants and animals.
Risk analysis is composed by three interrelated components: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication.
Risk assessment provides a logical approach for estimating the risk for the animal or human health of the presence of a hazard(s) based on available scientific information. The risk estimates reflect both the available scientific knowledge as well as accounting for biological variability and model uncertainty.
An effective risk assessment, with a “systems-thinking” approach requires scientific multidisciplinary teams able to assess the risks and propose risk mitigation strategies aimed at reducing the risk to an acceptable level. The scientific evidence that emerges from risk assessment provides a basis for establishing sanitary and phytosanitary policies by national public bodies in charge of food safety and animal health regulations (mainly Agriculture, Health and Commerce Ministries) and also the private sector, known in the risk analysis paradigm as risk managers, thus increasing the role of science in the process of decision making.
Risk Management and Communication
Risk management is the process of deciding upon and implementing measures to address the risks identified in the risk assessment, whilst at the same time ensuring that negative effects on trade are minimized. Risk management uses the available science to make decisions evaluating possible policy interventions in the food chain that will imply a regulatory action or non-regulatory actions. The decisions need to be weighted against several dimensions such as feasibility and social implications. The evaluation for feasibility normally focuses on technical, operational and economic factors affecting the implementation of the risk management options. Once a decision is made, a implementation phase ensuring that the risk management measures are in place and monitoring and review validating the risk management measures are achieving the results intended.
Effective risk management also requires a common effort among different ministries and key stakeholders along the food production and supply chain as well as the scientific community, a process known as risk communication.