The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have announced the first-ever Microbial Risk Assessment (MRA) Guideline for conducting assessments of the risks to Americans posed by pathogens in food and water.

Pathogens ingested in food and water can result in acute gastrointestinal-related illnesses; some gastrointestinal-related illnesses can result in long-term and permanent health effects as well as premature death.

Formal risk assessments for food, water, and environmentally relevant chemicals have been undertaken for decades. However, an overarching microbial risk assessment guideline has not been available until now. The EPA says the MRA guideline will improve the quality of the data collected by public health scientists.

“This guidance contributes significantly to improving the quality and consistency of microbial risk assessments and provides greater transparency to stakeholders and other interested parties in how federal agencies approach and conduct their microbial risk assessments,” said Dr. Glenn Paulson, EPA Science Advisor, in a prepared statement.

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen described the new guideline as a “transparent and scientifically rigorous document to use in protecting public health.”

For more information on the guideline, visit www.epa.gov/raf/microbial.htm.