Viewpoint: ‘Black and white’ hazard-based safety rules boost hunger in poorest countries


To the average person, “hazard” and “risk” may seem synonymous, both implying a threat that needs to be addressed. But they are substantively different in the food safety aspect. Hazard refers to any microbiological or chemical agent in food that may cause an adverse health effect, while risk is the probability of an adverse health effect caused by a hazard in food.

Safety assessments can take two forms: the hazard-based approach, and the risk-based approach. The former is a black-white approach where a food item is deemed unsafe for consumption, and therefore banned. The latter is, in contrast, graduated, and a commodity can still be allowed to enter a country even if a hazard is present, as long as the level of risk is negligible.

Related article:  Potato breeding 'revolution' aims to safeguard spuds against proliferating pests and climate change

25 years ago, the standards [set] by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for evaluating food safety for modern biotechnology products, defined food safety as “a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from intended uses ….”

Yet, today, hazard-based assessments are still being used in [Southeast Asia] for specific commodities …. Calibrating food safety standards and limits on a risk-based approach may …. provide more benefits, such as having greater food access, given that a larger variety of risk-free, or risk-reduced food products can be made available, at lower or more competitive prices.

Read full, original article: Asean should shift to risk-based assessments

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