In recent years considerable attention has been focused on improved
mechanisms for protecting consumers against microbiological and chemical
hazards which may be present in food. Yet there is as yet no widely used
system in place to give consumers confidence that this objective is being met.
No system will be perfect, but a risk-based system will be much more practical and
effective in reducing the exposure of consumers to these hazards than one based on
classical inspection techniques which are recognized to be high cost but poorly
effective, and will also be superior to one based on a formulaic or process
approach such as HACCP.
Work will be described which is progressively constructing the components
of a system in which the hazard-specific risks will be evaluated in real
time for meat products at each stage of production and processing through
to presentation in the supermarket, using information gathered for quality
assurance purposes. Each animal and its products will be tracked through
the production and marketing chain, and risk assessments for each of the
significant hazards will be computed in real time using an expert system
approach already developed for risk analyses. Disposition and further
processing of food items can be adjusted to take account of assessed
risks, and both feedback and feedforward can be provided to producers,
processors and others in the marketing chain to guide current and future actions.
The system is intended to be evolutionary in nature, and it will be designed to
take account of new knowledge and echnologies, progressively building such information
into its approach as the evidence becomes available. The features of the system will
be illustrated, and a strategy for its further development and implementation will be