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Keywords:

  • Consumer behavior;
  • food;
  • food microbiology;
  • risk communication;
  • risk perception

Microbial food safety has been the focus of research across various disciplines within the risk analysis community. Natural scientists involved in food microbiology and related disciplines work on the identification of health hazards, and the detection of pathogenic microorganisms. To perform risk assessment, research activities are increasingly focused on the quantification of microbial contamination of food products at various stages in the food chain, and modeling the impact of this contamination on human health. Social scientists conduct research into how consumers perceive food risks, and how best to develop effective risk communication with consumers in order to improve public health through improved food handling practices. The two approaches converge at the end of the food chain, where the activities regarding food preparation and food consumption are considered. Both natural and social sciences may benefit from input and expertise from the perspective of the alternative discipline, although, to date, the integration of social and natural sciences has been somewhat limited. This article therefore explores the potential of a transdisciplinary approach to food risk analysis in terms of delivering additional improvements to public health. Developing knowledge arising from research in both the natural and social sciences, we present a novel framework involving the integration of the two approaches that might provide the most effective way to improve the consumer health associated with food-borne illness.