FDA issues draft guidances for tomatoes, leafy greens and melons

In conjunction with last week's Congressional approval for a food safety bill, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new strategies that focus on prevention and depend on working closely with growers, food processors and consumers to achieve their goals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published three draft guidances designed to help growers and others across the entire supply chain minimize or eliminate microbial contamination in tomatoes, leafy greens, and melons.

The guidances are, in part, based on those originally developed by the produce industry with assistance from FDA. They represent the first step in a fundamental shift in strategy for the agency in the prevention of foodborne hazards associated with fresh fruits and vegetables.

"These new food safety guidelines will facilitate the development of enforceable food safety standards and ensure a safer supply of fresh food for all Americans," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The three draft guidances are designed to help growers and others across the entire supply chain minimize or eliminate contamination in leafy greens, tomatoes, and melons that can cause foodborne illnesses."

These commodity-specific guidances were called for by the President's Food Safety Working Group, which recommends a new, public-health focused approach to food safety. In a report issued earlier this month, the working group made recommendations aimed at creating a stronger food safety system. The recommendations stem from three core food safety principles:

  • Prevent harm to consumers
  • Use good data and analysis to ensure effective food safety inspections and enforcement of the law
  • Identify outbreaks of foodborne illness quickly and stop them

Key elements of the draft guidances related to the working group's strategies include:

  • An acceptable baseline standard of industry practices that help both domestic and foreign firms minimize the risk for microbial contamination of their products throughout the entire supply chain
  • Recommendations regarding growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transportation, and distribution of the product
  • Recommendations for recordkeeping, including some that will help the FDA determine more quickly the source of outbreaks that do occur.

Comments on FDA's guidance documents may be submitted at any time. However, to ensure that comments are received in time for consideration in drafting final versions of these guidance documents, written or electronic comments should be submitted within 90 days of publication in the Federal Register. See http://www.regulations.gov for information.

News Release: HHS Secretary Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announce New Strategies to Keep America's Food Supply Safe
Questions and Answers on FDA's Proposed Commodity-Specific Guidances (CSGs)

The Draft Guidances

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