Trends in food-borne exposure assessment – We need to master uncertainties
A recent editorial on “Increasing robustness, transparency and openness of scientific assessments” of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA Journal 2015;13(3):e13031, 3 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.e13031) reflects the need for more systematic assessment and communication of uncertainties in support of adequate and scientifically based decision making. Consequently, EFSA has drafted a guidance document for addressing uncertainties in their assessments (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/consultation/150618.pdf). The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has focused in their guidance document on uncertainty analysis in exposure assessment (http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/350/guidelines-on-uncertainty-analysis-in-exposure-assessments.pdf). EFSA and the BfR follow a structured approach in identifying uncertainties and identify similar major steps in relation to the risk question, scenario, model, model parameters, data, calculations/simulations and finally interpretation and communication. The EFSA guidance provides worked examples for application of statistical methods at different levels of technical complexity. The BfR guidance emphasizes qualitative approaches and features compiled lists of questions that can be used to identify uncertainties in a structured and comprehensive manner. The successful implementation of uncertainty analysis also depends on adequate communication of uncertainty, which may be a challenge for both risk assessors and risk managers.