June 12, 2007
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin a Tomato Safety Initiative in the Summer of 2007. The Initiative is a collaborative effort between FDA and the state health and agriculture departments in Virginia and Florida, in cooperation with several universities and members of the produce industry.
FDA developed the Tomato Safety Initiative in response to recurring Salmonella outbreaks associated with fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes. The Initiative is part of a risk-based strategy to reduce foodborne illness by focusing food safety efforts on specific products, practices, and growing areas that have been found to be problematic in the past. The Tomato Safety Initiative is modeled after the Leafy Greens Safety Initiative that was initiated in August 2006, in collaboration with the State of California's Department of Health Services and Department of Food and Agriculture. This new initiative is fully consistent with the 2004 FDA Produce Safety Action Plan goal of minimizing the incidence of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh produce.
Most tomato-associated outbreaks over the past ten years have been traced to product originating from the Eastern shore of Virginia and from Florida; however outbreaks have also been traced to Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, and California. Accordingly, FDA, in cooperation with Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will begin the Initiative in July of this year, by visiting Virginia based tomato farms and packing facilities to assess their food safety practices and to what degree they implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Assessment of a variety of environmental factors including irrigation water, wells, procedures for mixing chemicals, drought and flooding events, and animal proximity to growing fields will also be conducted during the farm and packing facility visits. Later in the year, a similar effort will be conducted in Florida coinciding with the production and harvesting season there. Other components of the Initiative include continuing outreach with the industry at all points in the supply chain, facilitating and promoting research on tomato safety, and working with federal, state and local public health officials in disease detection and outbreak response.
By identifying practices or conditions that potentially lead to product contamination, FDA can further improve guidance and policy intended to minimize future outbreaks as well as ascertain future produce safety research, education, and outreach needs. The findings of the Initiative will be publicly shared upon completion of the effort, allowing the states and industry members to maximize their food safety efforts as well.
Tomato Safety Initiative Continues in 2008 March 31, 2008