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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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by Gregg Claycamp, Ph.D.
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter 2002 Volume XVI, No V

The First International Conference on Microbial Risk Assessment was held in College Park, MD, July 23-25. The meeting drew about 200 risk assessors and food safety professionals from a wide variety of governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with food protection, industry and academia. FDA's Acting Commissioner, Dr. Lester Crawford, gave the opening address in which he not only welcomed the participants to the U.S., but also outlined the future of FDA participation in food safety counter-terrorism. Counter-terrorism relies on principles of risk analysis to identify hazards, characterize potential exposures from the hazards, and estimate human health risks.

The first day's plenary session included speakers on microbial risk assessment (MRA). Several of the discussions highlighted the rapid growth in the number of "farm-to-fork" risk assessments for food safety assessments and suggested ways in which the process of risk assessment might be improved. A common theme emerging from the talks focused on the tension between the need to perform risk assessments as the basis of public health policy, and the substantial gaps in quantitative information needed to estimate risks.

The remaining two days of the meeting included talks on various phases of risk assessment, including the types of data, data quality, the interfaces between risk assessors and risk managers, risk assessment tools, and case studies of governmental and industry-based risk assessments. Ample time for networking was available during the breaks, reception and the lunches provided on site. Dr. Jean-Louis Jouve, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and Dr. Jørgen Schlundt, World Health Organization, presented stimulating lunchtime addresses.

Members of CVM participated in organizing the meeting and in presentations. In particular, Dr. Mary Bartholomew participated on the meeting planning and Dr. Gregg Claycamp presented a plenary talk on antimicrobial resistance risk assessment. Other members of CVM's Risk Analysis Team were in attendance as were CVM staff from a variety of divisions in the Center.

The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for discussions of novel approaches to microbial risk analysis, the gaps in data needed for high-quality risk assessments, and the challenges faced in translating quantitative risk assessments to plain English for risk managers, stakeholders and the public at large. More information about the meeting can be found at the Risk Assessment Clearinghouse web site.

Dr. Claycamp is Director of CVM's Scientific Support & Generic Animal Drug Staff in the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation.