FDA seeks input on produce safety action plan

Jun 15, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said today it is producing a comprehensive new action plan for reducing pathogenic contamination in fresh produce and wants public input on it.

In a Federal Register notice, the FDA said it will publish a draft of the plan before a public meeting scheduled Jun 29 to gather comments. The meeting is set for 1 p.m. at the Harvey W. Wiley Federal Building of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, Md.

"The draft of the 2004 produce action plan addresses all principal points between the farm and table where contamination of produce could occur," the FDA announcement says. The plan covers fresh fruits and vegetables in whole condition or minimally processed (such as peeled or sliced but not cooked). It does not deal with processed products such as juice or farm products other than fruits and vegetables; tree nuts are excluded.

The new plan is a continuation of the FDA's "Produce and Imported Food Safety Initiative," launched in 1997, the agency said. That effort led to the publication in 1998 of the "Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables." Although that document "has been well received and widely adopted," foodborne illness outbreaks continue to occur, the agency said.

The new plan is titled "Produce Safety from Production to Consumption: An action Plan to Minimize Foodborne Illness Associated with Fresh Produce." It reflects lessons learned from inspections of farms and produce packing facilities and investigations of foodborne disease outbreaks, the FDA said.

The aim of the Jun 29 meeting is to gather the opinions of other government agencies and industry groups as well as the general public, officials said. The FDA published a set of nine questions to help focus comments at the meeting. Examples include:

  • What major practices contribute to the contamination of fresh produce by harmful pathogens?
  • Should the action plan cover any foods other than fruits and vegetables that have not been treated with heat?
  • How should progress toward the goal of reducing illness related to consumption of produce be measured?
  • Does the FDA's existing guidance on reducing microbial hazards in fresh produce need to be expanded or otherwise revised?

Because space will be limited, the FDA recommends that people interested in attending the meeting register no later than Jun 22. The agency also said people may submit written or electronic comments on the draft action plan. The official notice (see link below) gives details on registration and submission of comments.

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