F.D.A. issues fresh-cut produce safety draft

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) published a draft final guidance titled "Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables" that advises fresh-cut produce processors how to minimize microbial food safety hazards. The guidance comes on the heels of a summer where several types of fresh cut produce were cited as the sources of several food borne illness outbreaks.

The document recommends processors consider implementing a hazard analysis and critical control point system to prevent or reduce microbial, chemical and physical hazards to acceptable levels.

"Ensuring the safety of the American food supply is one of this agency’s top priorities," said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, commissioner of food and drugs for the F.D.A. "Americans are eating more fresh-cut produce, which we encourage as part of a healthy diet. But fresh-cut produce is one area in which we see food borne illness occur."

Processing produce into fresh-cut product increases the risk of bacterial contamination and growth by breaking the natural exterior barrier of the produce before the product is packaged.

Brian Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, Neward, Del., called the F.D.A.’s document "one of many important food safety efforts now taking place." He added the association has allocated $2.75 million to support new efforts, including research to investigate contamination sources and develop protocols aimed at prevention.

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