College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) Launches the New FoodRisk.org as a Leading Resource for the International Food Safety Community

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College Park, MD -- The University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) launched the redesigned FoodRisk.org earlier this month, featuring exclusive tools and datasets with the goal to advance food safety and public health nationally and internationally. FoodRisk.org acts as the host for major tools and resources from government agencies conducting food safety risk assessment, servicing the majority of this community. Two-thirds of the site traffic is international, with risk assessors looking to the US and FoodRisk.org to drive the international development of the field.

“JIFSAN has a major international footprint and has trained over 3,300 professionals around the world in food safety risk assessment to date. FoodRisk.org advances that mission even more by providing a space to help risk assessors find models, datasets, and tools that they need. Countries that are just getting started in food safety risk assessment or looking to expand their programs and knowledge need a place to start, and FoodRisk.org is where they go to do that,” said Kyle McKillop, Director of the Food Safety Informatics Program at JIFSAN and the project lead.

The new FoodRisk.org currently hosts 67 tools, with more than 40 of these tools exclusively hosted by JIFSAN. Many of these tools represent collaborations or cooperative agreements with JIFSAN and major regulatory or food safety agencies across the country and around the world.

FoodRisk.org started as a “clearinghouse” of links and articles, gathering all the relevant research, data, models, and literature together in one place for food safety risk assessors and professionals to search and find what they needed. However, the staff time and data mining it takes to maintain an accurate and up-to-date repository of all this information while keeping it easy to search became quickly unsustainable. “We noticed that less people were using the search and more people were spending their time interacting with our tools. This was what was giving the site it’s value, so we wanted to focus our efforts there,” said McKillop.

Food safety risk assessment is the process of quantifying the risk of getting sick from any kind of contaminant when eating a certain food product. These assessments can be very complex, looking at exposure to different contaminants from farm to fork. Because this is a complicated but critical and growing field, JIFSAN is gathering resources together for those who are conducting these assessments.

JIFSAN has managed FoodRisk.org since 2000 with the goal of advancing the field of food safety risk assessment. As an institute of the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, JIFSAN has been providing trainings, compiling food safety risk assessment literature and resources, and conducting research in the field for two decades, with the ultimate goal of quantifying risk and protecting human health.

JIFSAN has been and continues to be the host for the Interagency Risk Assessment Consortium (IRAC)’s website and content, with FoodRisk.org exclusively hosting tools developed by US government agencies. IRAC is a network of US federal agencies currently involved in food safety risk assessment, or with a commitment to further involvement or growth of the field, whether through developing food safety risk assessment tools or conducting/using food safety risk assessments. IRAC advises on FoodRisk.org and includes representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce. This positions FoodRisk.org and JIFSAN as a key player in the advancement of food safety risk assessment. 

While FoodRisk.org is not designed as a comprehensive center for all food safety risk assessment tools and datasets currently, the goal is to add new resources over time and become as comprehensive and useful to risk assessors as possible. This includes developing a process for scientists and risk assessors to submit their data and models to JIFSAN. “Part of the fun is that we don’t know what we will discover. But by adding new resources and giving risk assessors a place to explore the tools and data they need for their work, they will hopefully discover things they didn’t know existed that can really help them and help elevate their work and the work of future risk assessors,” said McKillop.

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