About 15 years ago the debate on the reliability of sampling procedures for agricultural food and feed commodities was initiated by a few brave scientists who questioned the representativeness of what, at the time, were routine sampling procedures established exclusively on the basis of tradition and practical feasibility. Over time several national and international organisations contributed to the discussion, developing standards and publishing papers either to underline the fact that sampling is always a source of error, in itself, which cannot be overlooked, or to minimise the relevance of sampling on the basis of argumentations linked to time and money limitations. The latter dominated, but is nevertheless impossible to accept from both a scientific and a responsible management perspective.
Here the author presents an historical overview of these past 15 years, illustrating the most controversial issues, reporting major achievements in food/feed sampling, highlighting milestones, as well as unresolved problems that still need the attention and contribution from the sampling community. The need to incorporate Theory of Sampling (TOS) into food/feed safety assessment (pre-market), as well as into food/feed safety monitoring (post-market) has recently been highlighted, and the practical applicability of TOS to base food/feed safety decisions on representative sampling, has been explored and documented via concrete examples of risk analysis in different areas of food/feed industrial production chains.
Now it is time to move forward and ensure that TOS is fully integrated into the well-established Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) / World Health Organization (WHO) risk assessment approach, in order to guarantee a transparent and correct universal frame for risk assessment and the subsequent management decision-making process. WCSB8 offers the ideal platform to explore the best way to do so, switching from a theoretical discussion of correct sampling principles for food and feed agricultural commodities to practical recommendations in the interest of consumers, worldwide. These 15 years have also been a personal journey of interesting dimensions, indeed a veritable roller-coaster ride in-and-out of the scientific, technological, industrial and (last but not least) regulatory worlds. The start was WCSB2 in 2004, when I flew to Australia to discover if in other areas sampling had been identified as an unavoidable issue and, if so, what the solution was. There, I found a good travel companion who today is still on my side, to assemble the puzzle and explore how to shape the future, to concretely answer to the 15 years' quest for proper sampling in the assessment and monitoring of food/feed safety.
Paoletti, C, 2017. Assessing and monitoring food and feed
safety – a 15 year quest for proper sampling, in Proceedings Eighth World
Conference on Sampling and Blending , pp 39–44 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).