International Journal of Food Microbiology vol:190 pages:31-43
Quantitative Microbiological Risk Assessment (QMRA) is a structured methodology used to assess the risk involved by ingestion of a pathogen. It applies mathematical models combined with an accurate exploitation of data sets, represented by distributions and –in the case of two-dimensional Monte Carlo simulations- their hyperparameters. This research aims to highlight background information, assumptions and truncations of a two-dimensional QMRA and advanced sensitivity analysis. We believe that such a detailed listing is not always clearly presented in actual risk assessment studies, while it is essential to ensure reliable and realistic simulations and interpretations. As a case-study, we are considering the occurrence of listeriosis in smoked fish products in Belgium during the period 2008–2009, using two-dimensional Monte Carlo and two sensitivity analysis methods (Spearman correlation and Sobol sensitivity indices) to estimate the most relevant factors of the final risk estimate. A risk estimate of 0.018% per consumption of contaminated smoked fish by an immunocompromised person was obtained. The final estimate of listeriosis cases (23) is within the actual reported result obtained for the same period and for the same population. Variability on the final risk estimate is determined by the variability regarding (i) consumer refrigerator temperatures, (ii) the reference growth rate of L. monocytogenes, (iii) the minimum growth temperature of L. monocytogenes and (iv) consumers portion size. Variability regarding the initial contamination level of L. monocytogenes tends to appear as a determinant of risk variability only when the minimum growth temperature is not included in the sensitivity analysis; when it is included the impact regarding the variability on the initial contamination level of L. monocytogenes is disappearing. Uncertainty determinants of the final risk indicated the need of gathering more information on the reference growth rate and the minimum growth temperature of L. monocytogenes. Uncertainty in the dose–response relationship was not included in the analysis, hence the level of its influence can not be assessed in the present research. Finally, a baseline global workflow for QMRA and sensitivity analysis is proposed.