Study praises indicator approach to food safety evaluation

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Microbiology

Scientists have highlighted the virtue of food safety performance indicators (FSPI) to help businesses evaluate their own safety management systems without having to perform actual microbiological analysis.

In a project supported by the EU food safety project PathogenCombat, a group of European scientists sought to develop and evaluate a new way of effectively and efficiently evaluating food safety management systems (FSMS).

One method of assessing a FSMS is to employ a Microbiological Assessment Scheme (MAS) that measures levels of microorganisms working on the premise that low numbers are indicative of an effective FSMS.

The problem with such an approach is that it is expensive, time consuming, and demands expert knowledge. Writing in International Journal of Food Microbiology​, food science and safety experts from three European universities therefore sought to establish a way of measuring food safety performance without performing actual microbiological analysis.


They therefore tested a food safety performance diagnosis based on seven indicators against MAS at nine European meat and dairy businesses.

Examples of the indicators used in the diagnosis include comprehensiveness of external evaluations, type of food safety complaints, and approach to product sampling.

A grid is then used to mark the performance of the businesses on a level between 0 and 4, from unknown through to poor, moderate, and good. The idea being that, for example, no or ad hoc product sampling is indicative of a poor FSMS whereas regular and systematic sampling suggests FSMS is functioning well.


In their evaluation of the indicator approach, the scientists said it produced comparable results to MAS.

The researchers concluded that their work demonstrates that food safety performance diagnosis can be applied instead of microbiological analysis to “get a first insight” of the microbiological performance of a food safety management system.

They said the food safety performance diagnosis has the added advantage of supporting a food business in identifying what to improve and how to do so. It can also be conducted internally by a quality assurance manager.

Source: International Journal of Food Microbiology
Food safety performance indicators to benchmark food safety output of food safety management systems
Authors: L. Jacxsens, M. Uyttendaele, F. Devlieghere, J. Rovira, S. Oses Gomez, P.A. Luning

Related topics R&D