The general idea of high risk foods are those foods which when handled poorly will allow bacterial growth and therefore have a much higher risk of being a source of food poisoning (also called food borne illness).
The High Risk Foods in Australia are generally considered to be ; meats, (including poultry and seafood), dairy, eggs, cut fruit and vegetables, cooked rice and pasta. And any foods containing any of them.
These foods are considered as high risk based on scientific evidence over time, including the characteristics of pathogens and their preference for certain foods due to conditions or processing and the history of food poisoning incidents.
Risk in HACCP and other risk assessment processes is a combination of both how often the hazard happens (the frequency or likelihood) and how bad it is when it does happen (the severity).
Another way of determing high risk foods is those foods that are most commonly recalled or are produced in a way that makes them more likely to harbor harmful bacteria.
However, there is a lot of discussion going on around the food industry both in Australia and internationally about what risk actually means in terms of food and food poisoning.
Another question being asked in relation to risk in food and food poisoning is whether there really is any food which does not have some degree of risk and how can we as a food industry be expected to ensure that every food has no risk to consumers.
In the USA, it is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), section 204(d)(2)(A), which is to be used to set the definition for high risk foods in that country and is based on the following factors
- the known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to such food, taking into consideration foodborne illness data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
- the likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the nature of the food or the processes used to produce such food;
iii. the point in the manufacturing process of the food where contamination is most likely to occur;
- the likelihood of contamination and steps taken during the manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of contamination;
- the likelihood that consuming a particular food will result in a foodborne illness due to contamination of the food; and
- the likely or known severity, including health and economic impacts, of a foodborne illness attributed to a particular food.
The FDA has, to date, considered “high risk” foods to be soft cheeses, seafood, custard-filled bakery products, some fruits and vegetables, and baby formula.
As can be seen, it is not easy to uniformly define and agree to what are the high risk foods and how they are to be determined.
Bill Marler’s (the author of Food Safety News www.foodsafetynews.com and a leading lawyer for food poisoning cases in the USA) suggest the following foods for the high-risk list:
Raw milk and products made from it, Raw juice, Raw sprouts, Pre-cut fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), Raw shellfish and Uncooked flour
Do you agree?