The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that they have jointly developed a new tool to help “improve the quality of data collected and used to protect consumers from pathogen-related risks in food and water.”

The Microbial Risk Assessment (MRA) Guideline will help the government better asses the risks these pathogens pose to the public.

“This new tool will help public health scientists target pathogen-related risks and prevent them from harming the public,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen in the announcement by USDA today. “We will continue to enhance the tools at our disposal to keep pace with evolving pathogens in our environment with the ultimate goal of protecting the American public and the food supply.”

EPA Science Adviser Dr. Glenn Paulson said that the project “contributes significantly” to improving  the way federal agencies conduct microbial risk assessments and increases the transparency of the process so that stakeholders can better understand federal risk assessments.

“Based on the success of this project, we are seeking further opportunities to combine our technical expertise in our continuing efforts to protect the public’s health,” said Paulson.

As USDA noted in their announcement, pathogens in food, water, and the environment can result in acute gastrointestinal-related illnesses and some can have long-term and permanent health effects as well as fatalities.

Oftentimes, the source of pathogens is the same for water and food.

The MRA Guideline outlines procedures that follow a “user-friendly, question-and-answer format that assists risk assessors in developing microbial risk assessments to meet agency-specific needs,” according to FSIS.

“Formal risk assessments for food-, water-, and environmentally-relevant chemicals have been undertaken for decades; however, an overarching microbial risk assessment guideline has not been available until now,” the agency added.  “The document announced today meets this need by providing comprehensive, specific and descriptive information for developing assessments of microbial risk in food and water.”

FSIS has posted the MRA Guideline here. EPA has posted the MRA Guideline here. The MRA Guideline will also be available to download at beginning July 31.