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A Multi-Factorial Risk Prioritization Framework for Food-Borne Pathogens


  • Spencer J. Henson

    () (Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada)

  • Julie Caswell

    () (Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA)

  • John A. L. Cranfield

    () (Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada)

  • Aamir Frazil

    () (Public Health Agency of Canada, Guelph, Ontario Canada)

  • Valerie J. Davidson

    () (School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada)

  • Sven M. Anders

    () (Department of Rural Economy, University of Alberta, Edmonton Canada)

  • Claudia Schmidt

    () (Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada)


To lower the incidence of human food-borne disease, experts and stakeholders have urged the development of a science- and risk-based management system in which food-borne hazards are analyzed and prioritized. A literature review shows that most approaches to risk prioritization developed to date are based on measures of health outcomes and do not systematically account for other factors that may be important to decision making. The Multi-Factorial Risk Prioritization Framework developed here considers four factors that may be important to risk managers: public health, consumer risk perceptions and acceptance, market-level impacts, and social sensitivity. The framework is based on the systematic organization and analysis of data on these multiple factors. The basic building block of the information structure is a three-dimensional cube based on pathogen-food-factor relationships. Each cell of the cube has an information card associated with it and data from the cube can be aggregated along different dimensions. The framework is operationalized in three stages, with each stage adding another dimension to decision-making capacity. The first stage is the information cards themselves that provide systematic information that is not pre-processed or aggregated across factors. The second stage maps the information on the various information cards into cobweb diagrams that create a graphical profile of, for example, a food-pathogen combination with respect to each of the four risk prioritization factors. The third stage is formal multi-criteria decision analysis in which decision makers place explicit values on different criteria in order to develop risk priorities. The process outlined above produces a ‘List A’ of priority food-pathogen combinations according to some aggregate of the four risk prioritization factors. This list is further vetted to produce ‘List B’, which brings in feasibility analysis by ranking those combinations where practical actions that have a significant impact are feasible. Food-pathogen combinations where not enough is known to identify any or few feasible interventions are included in ‘List C’. ‘List C’ highlights areas with significant uncertainty where further research may be needed to enhance the precision of the risk prioritization process. The separation of feasibility and uncertainty issues through the use of ‘Lists A, B, and C’ allows risk managers to focus separately on distinct dimensions of the overall prioritization. The Multi-Factorial Risk Prioritization Framework provides a flexible instrument that compares and contrasts risks along four dimensions. Use of the framework is an iterative process. It can be used to establish priorities across pathogens for a particular food, across foods for a particular pathogen and/or across specific food-pathogen combinations. This report provides a comprehensive conceptual paper that forms the basis for a wider process of consultation and for case studies applying the framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Spencer J. Henson & Julie Caswell & John A. L. Cranfield & Aamir Frazil & Valerie J. Davidson & Sven M. Anders & Claudia Schmidt, 2007. "A Multi-Factorial Risk Prioritization Framework for Food-Borne Pathogens," Working Papers 2007-8, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Resource Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:dre:wpaper:2007-8

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    Cited by:

    1. Galli, Francesca & Carbone, Anna & Caswell, Julie A. & Sorrentino, Alessandro, 2011. "A Multi-Criteria Approach to Assessing PDOs/PGIs: An Italian Pilot Study," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 2(3).
    2. Julie A. Caswell, 2008. "Expanding the Focus of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Food Safety: A Multi-Factorial Risk Prioritization Approach," Working Papers 2008-8, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Resource Economics.
    3. Ragona, Maddalena & Mazzocchi, Mario, 2008. "Measuring the Impacts of Food Safety Regulations: A Methodological Review," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 43864, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. Sven Anders & Claudia Schmidt, 2011. "The international quest for an integrated approach to microbial food-borne risk prioritization: where do we stand?," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 215-239, February.

    More about this item


    risk analysis; risk prioritization; food-borne pathogens; benefits and costs;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • Q00 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - General
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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