microbiological hazards in food-Guidelines
Exposure assessment of
microbiological hazards
in food-Guidelines

Exposure assessment of microbiological hazards in food


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WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Exposure assessment of microbiological hazards in food: guidelines.
Published jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO).
(Microbiological risk assessment series No. 7)
1. Food microbiology 2. Food contamination 3. Water microbiology 4. Risk assessment –
methods 5. Risk management 6. Guidelines I. Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations II. World Health Organization III. Title IV. Series

ISBN 92 4 154689 1 (WHO) (NLM classification: QW 85)
ISBN 92 5 105422 2 (FAO)
ISSN 1726-5274
Recommended citation
FAO/WHO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health
Organization]. 2008. Exposure assessment of microbiological hazards in foods: Guidelines.
Microbiological Risk Assessment Series No. 7. Rome. 92pp.

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© FAO and WHO 2008



These guidelines are part of a series of guidelines on microbiological risk assessment being prepared by FAO and WHO. Guidelines on Hazard Characterization for Pathogens in Food and Water have already been published as number 3 of this FAO/WHO Microbiological Risk Assessment Series. Guidelines on risk characterization are in preparation and will be published as number 13 in the FAO/WHO Microbiological Risk Assessment Series. If undertaking a risk assessment, the reader is recommended to refer to all these publications. It is also recommended to consider reading the guidelines on risk characterization first, as this gives the reader an overview of the different types of risk assessments that can be undertaken and their associated outcomes, and should therefore help the reader decide the level of detail required when undertaking the exposure assessment and hazard characterization steps of any risk assessment.

The guidelines aim to provide a practical framework and approach for undertaking exposure assessment of microbiological hazards (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and microbial toxins) in foods in the context of a risk assessment or as a stand-alone process. Guidance on specific parts of an exposure assessment is provided based on experience to date, but it is also recognized that this is an area that is still evolving, and new and more appropriate methods and approaches may become available in the near future. These guidelines are therefore not a comprehensive source of information for exposure assessment. It is worth noting that this document aims to provide the reader with guidance, and not prescriptive and rigid rules that have to be adhered to in any exposure assessment. It would be impossible to give rigid rules as the level of detail and methodology applied will be different for each exposure assessment undertaken. For example, while Chapter 4 of these guidelines give an extensive description of the data types that can be used for exposure assessment, it is recognized that in many cases the amount of data available to undertake exposure assessment is more limited, and having this amount of data is the ideal rather than the norm. Hence, the chapter also provides guidance on dealing with data gaps and limitations.