Modelling and magnitude estimation of cross‐contamination in the kitchen for quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA)
In the kitchen of the consumer, two main transmission routes are relevant for quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA): the cross‐contamination route, where a pathogen on a food product may evade heating by transmission via hands, kitchen utensils and other surfaces, e.g. to non‐contaminated products to be consumed raw; and the heating route, where pathogens remain on the food product and are for the most part inactivated through heating. This project was undertaken to model and estimate the magnitude of cross‐contamination in the domestic environment. Scientific information from the relevant literature was collected and analyzed, to define the cross‐contamination routes, to describe the variability sources and to extract and harmonise the transfer fractions to be included as model parameters. The model was used to estimate the relative impact of the cross‐contamination routes for different scenarios. In addition, the effectiveness of several interventions in reducing the risk of food‐borne diseases due to cross‐contamination was investigated. The outputs of the model showed that the cutting board route presents a higher impact compared to other routes and replacement of the kitchen utensils is more effective than other interventions investigated; the transfer to other surfaces and objects, which can house bacteria in the environment, is also described. Laboratory cross‐contamination trials have been performed to estimate bacterial transfer via cutting, from the external surface of the meat to the cutting surfaces and to the knife. The results, obtained from the laboratory trials, show magnitudes of and differences in the bacterial transfer fraction to the knife and the cutting surface in relation to which side of the meat is contaminated. Despite the complexity of factors which influence bacterial transfer, the combination of laboratory work with mathematical modelling enhanced scientific understanding and appreciation of the uncertainty of the estimates. QMRA methodology results in magnitude estimation of cross‐contamination in the kitchen and evaluation of intervention strategies.