The occurrence of foodborne disease remains a widespread problem in both the developing and the developed world. A systematic and quantitative evaluation of food safety is important to control the risk of foodborne diseases. World-wide, many initiatives are being taken to develop quantitative risk analysis. However, the quantitative evaluation of food safety in all its aspects is very complex, especially since in many cases specific parameter values are not available. Often many variables have large statistical variability while the quantitative effect of various phenomena is unknown. Therefore, sensitivity analysis can be a useful tool to determine the main risk-determining phenomena, as well as the aspects that mainly determine the inaccuracy in the risk estimate. This paper presents three stages of sensitivity analysis. First, deterministic analysis selects the most relevant determinants for risk. Overlooking of exceptional, but relevant cases is prevented by a second, worst-case analysis. This analysis finds relevant process steps in worst-case situations, and shows the relevance of variations of factors for risk. The third, stochastic analysis, studies the effects of variations of factors for the variability of risk estimates. Care must be taken that the assumptions made as well as the results are clearly communicated. Stochastic risk estimates are, like deterministic ones, just as good (or bad) as the available data, and the stochastic analysis must not be used to mask lack of information. Sensitivity analysis is a valuable tool in quantitative risk assessment by determining critical aspects and effects of variations.
Zwietering, M. H., & van Gerwen, S. J. C. (2000). Sensitivity analysis in quantitative microbial risk assessment. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 58, 213-221. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1605(00)00275-0