Aspects of Risk-Benefit Assessment of Food Consumption
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Aspects of Risk-Benefit Assessment of Food Consumption

Directions for the future

During the autumn of 2007, the National Food Administration in Sweden arranged a two-day seminar with the title "Aspects of Risk-Benefit Assessment of Food Consumption - Directions for the Future". The seminar was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the objective was to provide an overview of methods that have been applied for risk-benefit assessment, and to discuss advantages and limitations of this approach in the food sector. The purpose was also to investigate the possibility to establish a common view, among the Nordic and Baltic countries, for how to proceed with work regarding risk-benefit assessment of food products. Experts from the National Food Administration and other Swedish organizations, the other Nordic countries, and the Baltic countries were present at the seminar. Invited speakers held presentations during the first day. On the second day, risk-benefit activities in the Nordic countries concerning fish consumption were presented, and organised group discussions were also held. The report summarises the different activities and discussions at the Uppsala seminar, and presents the conclusions of the meeting.

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Nordic Council of Ministers

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In conclusion, the meeting agreed that since risk-benefit analysis considers the whole picture, it will help to avoid making sub-optimized decisions. Also, use of risk-benefit analysis promotes the communication of a coherent message, and helps to avoid the communication of several messages from different sources that potentially may appear conflicting. Risk-benefit analysis is not a routine procedure; it is useful in the case of small margins between risks and benefits. There is currently a lack of data for risk-benefit analysis in many respects. A tiered approach may be necessary; the availability and type of data determine how to approach the problem, e.g. whether the analysis is qualitative, quantitative, or both. While an overview of all potential risks and benefits needs to be conducted for a given problem, the final analysis may be directed towards the more important ones. In general, the scheme for risk assessment also appears appropriate for assessing the benefits.