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Food Safety Guidance Document Released for Fresh Tomatoes

The Tomato Magazine
August 2006

The North American Tomato Trade Work Group (NATTWG) has released the first comprehensive Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) aimed at guiding North American fresh tomatoes through the distribution chain.

The document, “Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain,” provides food safety education for the production of fresh tomatoes from the grower and shipper, wholesalers and repackers, and includes value-added handlers, foodservice and retailers. Consumer handling tips are also included.

NATTWG, a consortium consisting of fresh field and greenhouse tomato organizations within the United States, Canada and Mexico, developed the document in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tomato directive issued in February 2004.

In that directive, FDA requested the fresh tomato industry build upon its past efforts to adopt industry-wide GAP and the importance of the entire distribution chain in this educational effort.

A Continuation of GAP Document
“This guidance is a continuation to the comprehensive GAP document created by California’s fresh tomato industry in 1999,” said Ed Beckman, president of the California Tomato Commission (CTC). “We’ve broadened the scope to include all those that conventionally come into contact with the tomato throughout the chain.”

“ It is imperative that our suppliers have the highest food safety standards in place to help protect our brand name,” said Michael Spinazzola, president of DRS, who supplies Subway restaurants with fresh tomatoes. “The CTC is a great partner who plays an integral part in our plans for moving forward with providing the safest tomatoes to consumers throughout the world.”

“ These guidelines are the science-based ‘minimum’ requirements for the production and handling of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes,” said Mario Seta, NATTWG chairman, noting that many within the chain already do even more to ensure a safe product. “The development and dissemination of safe handling practices will help the industry reach our goal of zero-tolerance for foodborne pathogens.”

The document also includes collaboration from fresh tomato industry members, researchers from the University of California, Davis, FDA, foodservice and retail operators in the United States and Canada. Seta said.

According to Beckman, this guidance document doesn’t constitute the end of the industry’s work on food safety. The CTC is currently in discussions with state agencies to ensure the distribution chain continues to improve and enhance cooperation with all involved in tomato food safety.

“ Similar efforts are underway in Florida, said Reggie Brown, executive director of the Florida Tomato Exchange. “The safety of fresh tomatoes through the many channels to the end user, the consumer, is our collective industries’ highest priority.”

Copies of the guidance document are available free of charge from the commission’s Web site, www.tomato.org or by contacting the CTC, (559) 230-0116.

© 2006 Columbia Publishing

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