A multi-criteria approach to the evaluation of food safety interventions.
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
New Zealand faces a range of food safety hazards. Microbial hazards alone were estimated to cause over 2,000 years of lost healthy life in 2011 (Cressey, 2012) and $62m in medical costs and lost productivity in 2009 (Gadiel & Abelson, 2010).
Chemical hazards are thought to be well managed through existing controls (Vannoort & Thomson, 2009) whereas microbial hazards are considered harder to control, primarily due to their ability to reproduce along the food production chain. Microbial hazards are thought to cause the majority of acute foodborne gastroenteritis. This research reviewed food safety literature and official documentation, and conducted 55 interviews, mostly with food safety experts from different stakeholder groups, to examine the food safety decision-making environment in New Zealand. This research explores the concept of the ‘stakeholder’ in the context of food safety decision-making and proposes an inclusive ‘stakeholder’ definition as any group which is able to affect, or be affected by, the decision-making process. Utilising this definition, and guided by interviews, New Zealand stakeholders in food safety decision-making were identified and classified as follows: •Regulators •Public health authorities •Food safety scientists/academics •Consumers •Māori •Food Businesses (further classified as): o Farmers o Processors o Food retailers o Exporters
Interviews with stakeholders from these groups highlighted twelve criteria as being relevant to multiple groups during food safety intervention evaluation: •Effectiveness •Financial cost •Market Access •Consumer Perceptions •Ease of Implementation •Quality or Suitability •Quality of Science •Equity of Costs •Equity of Benefits •Workplace Safety •Cultural Impact •Animal Welfare
There are a number of different ways to measure or assess performance on these criteria. Some are able to be quantitatively measured, while others may require the use of value judgements. This thesis used the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) metric for quantifying effectiveness during the testing of different MCDA models.
This thesis reviews the MCDA process and the food safety specific MCDA literature. There are different ways of conducting MCDA. In particular, there are a large number of models available for the aggregation phase; the process of converting model inputs, in the form of criteria scores and weights, into model recommendations. This thesis has described and reviewed the main classes of model. The literature review and interview process guided the construction and testing of three classes of MCDA model; the Weighted Sum, Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and PROMETHEE models. These models were selected due to their having different characteristics and degrees of complexity, as well as their popularity in the food safety and Health Technology Assessment (HTA) literature. Models were tested on the problem of selecting the most appropriate intervention to address the historic Campylobacter in poultry problem in New Zealand during the mid-2000s. Experimentation was conducted on these models to explore how different configurations utilise data and produce model outputs. This experimentation included: •Varying the format of input data •Exploring the effects of including/excluding criteria •Methods for sensitivity analysis •Exploring how data inputs and outputs can be elicited and presented using visual tools • Creating and using hybrid MCDA models The results of this testing are a key output of this thesis and provide insight into how such models might be used in food safety decision-making. The conclusions reached throughout this research phase can be classified into one of two broad groups: •Those relating to MCDA as a holistic process/methodology for decision-making •Those relating to the specific models and mathematical procedures for generating numerical inputs and outputs
This thesis demonstrates that food-safety decision-making is a true multi-criteria, multi-stakeholder problem. The different stakeholders in food-safety decision-making do not always agree on the value and importance of the attributes used to evaluate competing intervention schemes. MCDA is well suited to cope with such complexity as it provides a structured methodology for the systematic and explicit identification, recording and aggregation of qualitative and quantitative information, gathered from a number of different sources, with the output able to serve as a basis for decision-making.
The MCDA models studied in this thesis range from models that are simple and quick to construct and use, to more time consuming models with sophisticated algorithms. The type of model used for MCDA, the way these models are configured and the way inputs are generated or elicited can have a significant impact on the results of an analysis. This thesis has identified a number of key methodological considerations for those looking to employ one of the many available MCDA models. These considerations include: •Whether a model can accommodate the type and format of input data •The desired degree of compensation between criteria (i.e. full, partial or no compensation) •Whether the goal of an analysis is the identification of a ‘best’ option(s), or the facilitation of discussion, and communication of data •The degree of transparency required from a model and whether an easily understood audit trail is desired/required •The desired output of a model (e.g. complete or partial ranking). This thesis has also identified a number of practical considerations when selecting which model to use in food safety decision-making. These include: •The amount of time and energy required of stakeholders in the generation of data inputs (elicitation burden) •The degree of training required for participants •How data inputs are to be elicited and aggregated in different group decision-making environments •The availability of MCDA software for assisting an analysis
Considering the above points will assist users in selecting a suitable MCDA model that meets their requirements and constraints. This thesis provides original and practical knowledge to assist groups or individuals looking to employ MCDA in the context of food-safety intervention decision-making. This research could also serve as a guide for those looking to evaluate a different selection of MCDA models.