F.D.A. working to improve tomato safety

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration is beginning a multi-year tomato safety initiative with the goal of reducing tomato-related foodborne illness in the United States.

The initiative is a part of the F.D.A.’s produce safety action plan and is a collaborative effort between the F.D.A. and state health and agriculture departments in Florida and Virginia. It will begin with this year’s growing season for Virginia during the summer and Florida in the fall.

The initiative will help identify practices and conditions that could lead to product contamination and evaluate the need for additional produce safety research, education and outreach. It will work to outreach with the industry at all points in the supply chain, facilitate and promote research on tomato safety, increase communications in the event of an outbreak, and build and strengthen collaborative relationships with federal, state and local public health officials in disease prevention, detection and outbreak response.

"Produce is an important part of a healthy diet and F.D.A. wants to improve its safety by better understanding the causes of foodborne illness and by promoting more effective methods of safe food production, delivery and preparation," said Robert Brackett, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "This initiative is part of a strategy to reduce foodborne illness by focusing food safety assessments on specific products, practices, and growing areas that have been found to be problematic in the past."

In the last 10 years, fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes have been responsible for 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States with 1,840 confirmed illnesses. Most of these outbreaks have been linked to products from Florida and Virginia.

F.D.A. investigators, along with state counterparts, are planning visits to tomato farms and packing facilities in Florida and Virginia to evaluate food safety measures and the use of good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices.

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