Food safety research methods and priorities

We do research, surveillance, and other work to help ensure food in New Zealand is safe and suitable. Find out more about our work.

Our food science programme

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has a project-based food science programme. The programme:

  • helps to assure safe food for New Zealanders and consumers in export markets.
  • aims to minimise foodborne illness in New Zealand.

To minimise foodborne illness, we do studies to:

  • help our understanding of food safety and suitability issues
  • assess food's risk to the consumer.

We also participate in investigations into food safety incidents involving:

  • New Zealand-produced food
  • imported food.

We aim to handle investigations in a timely and effective way.

Scope of the programme

We're involved in research on many food safety and suitability topics. We also have major work programmes with their own research projects. These mostly focus on:

  • reducing food safety risks
  • contributing to better nutrition for New Zealanders.

How we get information

The food science programme gathers information from:

  • surveillance
  • scientific literature
  • expert opinions
  • experimental projects.

This helps with ensuring that we effectively:

  • identify and monitor food safety hazards
  • manage foodborne risks to human health.

The programme also aims to maintain key scientific capability in New Zealand.

How we prioritise research

Projects are prioritised and ranked according to risk, and considerations including:

  • public health priorities
  • MPI’s strategy
  • international market access issues
  • appropriate and effective use of funds.

The programme is risk-based.

Food risk assessments

MPI follows the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s risk assessment framework when ranking risks and doing risk profiles and risk assessments.

Codex Alimentarius Commission

There are 4 main steps in our risk management process:

  1. Preliminary risk management activities
  2. Assessment of risk management options
  3. Implementation of the risk management decision
  4. Monitoring and review

Preliminary risk management activities

Before deciding on further actions, we gather information about potential risks, including:

  • identifying the food safety issue
  • establishing a risk profile
  • ranking the food safety issue for risk management
  • establishing a risk assessment policy
  • commissioning a risk assessment
  • considering the results of risk assessment.

Assessment of risk management options

Assessment includes:

  • identifying the available risk management options
  • selecting a preferred risk management option
  • making a final risk management decision.

Purpose and scope of our food risk profiles

MPI food risk profiles provide a summary of relevant information on a food safety issue for a specific hazard/food combination. Their main purpose is to guide initial risk management activities around that issue. This is done following MPI's standards risk management decisions process.

Risk profiles are a practical tool for risk managers. Because of this, the documents:

  • are analytical
  • are concise
  • offer more specific information than a hazard data sheet.

Format of food risk profiles

Our risk profiles are structured in 7 parts.

Executive summary

This gives a statement of the scientific evidence on the risk to human health for the combination of food and hazard covered in the risk profile. This includes a critical evaluation of current data.

Statement of purpose

This describes:

  • the food/hazard combination
  • the context
  • reasons for preparing the risk profile.

Hazard and food

This outlines the food and the hazard covered in the risk profile. It also includes information that has a bearing on controlling the risk. For example:

  • sources of the food
  • contamination pathways
  • exposure
  • other factors.

Evaluation of adverse health effects

This offers an evaluation of the risks to human health. This is done by drawing on human health surveillance data from New Zealand and other countries.

Evaluation of risk

This section brings together:

  • critical scientific information about the risk
  • a commentary on the burden of foodborne illness in New Zealand and the food source attribution

It concludes with a summary of the foodborne human health risk.

Availability of control measures

This covers:

  • current control measures
  • their effectiveness
  • other options for controlling the risk.


This offers relevant background or generic information to support the information in the risk profile.

Keep up to date

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Who to contact

If you have questions about food safety research, email


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