FDA's Fresh Produce Risk Ranking Tool

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported fresh produce consumed in the United States. Outbreaks of illness due to food-borne pathogens associated with fresh produce have increased in the past decade. Despite some high-profile outbreaks, there has been no systematic means by which to compare the different agent-commodity combinations to determine which present the most significant risks and prioritize them as candidates for interventions that might help prevent contamination or inactivate contaminants when they are present in food.

A semiquantitative risk ranking tool was created to identify priority pathogen-produce commodity combinations based on explicit data-driven risk criteria. To identify candidate pathogen-commodity pairs, a database was created that included all reports of outbreaks associated with fresh produce from the Annual Listing of Foodborne Disease Outbreaks compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1996 to 2006 (CDC, 1996—2006). Additional information was sought from peer-reviewed literature and publicly accessible databases. Reliable epidemiological outbreak data were available for 51 pathogen-commodity pairs. Additional information about these pathogen-commodity pairs was collected in an effort to characterize risk in four different dimensions: i) Strength of the epidemiological association between the pathogen and the commodity; ii) Severity of disease; iii) Pathogen characteristics that affect disease risk or severity and iv) Commodity characteristics that affect pathogen prevalence, pathogen behavior, and likelihood of exposure by the consuming public.

Each of these dimensions was further characterized by two or more criteria, for a total of nine criteria:

  • Epidemiological link
  • Disease multiplier
  • Hospitalization rate
  • Death rate
  • Growth potential/shelf life
  • Population susceptibility
  • Infectious dose
  • Prevalence of contamination
  • Consumption

The Risk Ranking Tool (RRT) provides an easy to use, customizable, systematic, and data-driven means by which to prioritize pathogen-produce commodities for more rigorous quantitative microbial risk assessment efforts.

This tool was developed by RTI International and was developed in Microsoft Access so you must have this program to run the tool. Before you use the tool, we recommend you read the user guide and the peer review report  thoroughly to understand how to use the risk ranking tool.

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RRT Screenshot