In light of last month's events at the Food Safety Summit in Maryland, it seems appropriate to highlight a recent article "Ensuring Food Safety with Monte Carlo Simulation" featured in the Risk Management Monitor.
The article shines light on the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an interactive web-based tool called iRISK, to combat the seeming endless risks in the "farm-to-table" pathway. Like Palisade's flagship product, @RISK, this tool utilizes Monte Carlo simulation to analyze potential food contamination risk based on a number of factors: the food(s), the hazard(s), the population of concern (for instance, elderly or immune-compromised), the production or processing system being used for the food, the consumption patterns, the dose response (what level of exposure will have a health impact), and how the health effects are to be calculated.
Along the same lines, when Shanghai hosted the 41st World Expo in May 2010, the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration relied on Monte Carlo simulation to assess food safety. Organizers wanted to be certain that food distributed to foreign visitors was safe, so it initiated a quantitative analysis of nitrite contamination in cooked meat. The Shanghai FDA conducted 370 random checks of meat products in the city and found four percent of samples exceeded nitrite standards.
The findings indicated that the possibility of passing the threshold for acute nitrite poisoning indeed existed, as well as the possibility for exceeding the allowable daily intake of nitrite. Based on the results, the Shanghai FDA proposed that businesses in the food service industry be forbidden from using nitrite, which eliminated the possibility of nitrite poisoning at its root.
Palisade's vice president, Randy Heffernan, sums up the situation in the article, "It is interesting – if not a little disconcerting – to consider the guesswork previously employed in food safety prior to technological advances such as Monte Carlo simulation. While risk can never be completely eliminated, we can at least dine with less concern when analysts are armed with solutions that dramatically lower risk."