FDA Implementing Initiative to Reduce Tomato-Related Foodborne
The Tomato Magazine
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin a multi-year Tomato
Safety Initiative to reduce the incidence of tomato-related foodborne
illness in the United States.
"Produce is an important part of a healthy diet and FDA 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, Ph.D., director of FDA'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."
The initiative, part of FDA's Produce Safety Action Plan (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/prodpla2.html),
is a collaborative effort between FDA and state health and agriculture
departments in Florida and Virginia. Several universities and members
of the produce industry also are part of the effort. It will begin during
this year's growing season for Virginia in the summer and for Florida
in the fall.
During the past decade, the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes
has been linked to 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness in the
U.S. Those outbreaks include 1,840 confirmed cases of illness. The majority
of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern
shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been
traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina.
The effort will include identifying practices or conditions that potentially
lead to product contamination, which will allow FDA to continue to improve
its guidance and policy on tomato safety. The initiative will evaluate
the need for additional produce safety research, education, and outreach.
Other components of the initiative include:
Continuing outreach with the industry at all points in the supply
Facilitating and promoting research on tomato safety,
Communicating early and often in the event of an outbreak, and
Continuing to build and strengthen collaborative relationships with
federal, state and local public health officials in disease prevention,
detection, and outbreak response.
FDA investigators in coordination with their respective state counterparts
will visit tomato farms and packing facilities in Florida and Virginia
to assess food safety practices and use of Good Agricultural Practices
(GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). During their visits, offi
cials will also evaluate a variety of environmental factors including
irrigation water, wells, procedures for mixing chemicals, drought and
fl ooding events, and animal proximity to growing fields.
Editor's note: This information can be found on the FDA Web
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