FDA recommends steps for reducing Salmonella risk in peanut products

Mar 10, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday issued two sets of recommendations for reducing the risk of Salmonella contamination in peanut products, one aimed at the food industry and the other at food service establishments and retail stores.

The FDA's action follows a 2-month investigation of a nationwide Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to peanut butter, peanut paste, and other items made by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) that has sickened 683 people in 46 states and has led to the recall of more than 2,833 products. The FDA published the documents on its Web site.

In its guidance for the food industry, the FDA said the document isn't a set of guidelines, but rather its current thinking on addressing the risk of Salmonella contamination in foods that contain peanut products. It pointed out that Salmonella can become heat resistant as the water activity of a food becomes lower, conditions found in peanut butter and peanut paste.

The effectiveness of processing methods to reduce Salmonella in food products may depend on if and how much an ingredient with low water activity is rehydrated. Processing methods are more effective at killing the pathogen when the peanut ingredient is completely mixed into a high–water activity food, given time to fully rehydrate, and heated or acidified adequately. However, the pathogen may remain when lumps or swirls of peanut butter remain in the food product.

The FDA recommends that food manufacturers obtain peanut products only from suppliers that have validated procedures to reduce Salmonella contamination.

In instances when manufacturers must use raw shelled or blanched peanuts or when Salmonella concerns have been raised about a particular lot or lots of peanut ingredients, the FDA recommends that manufacturers:

  • Ensure that their own manufacturing processes adequately reduce Salmonella contamination
  • Adjust processing conditions to account for the food's specific characteristics
  • Keep in mind that the most reliable way to gauge if a manufacturing process reduces Salmonella in a peanut-containing food is to conduct microbiological challenge studies
  • Avoid depending on negative tests by themselves in finished products to measure the efficacy of processes that reduce Salmonella

The FDA also advises food manufacturers to be aware that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other food-industry groups have recently published an industry guidance document aimed at controlling Salmonella risk, particularly in low-moisture foods.

In its advice to food service establishments and retailers, the FDA issued the same warning about Salmonella survivability in low-moisture foods and warned that routinely cooking peanut-containing food items may not always ensure safety for consumers.

The FDA urged the two groups to work with suppliers to ensure that the peanut products have been made and packed using current good manufacturing practices.

See also:

Mar 9 FDA peanut ingredient recommendations for industry

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