FDA Issues New Safety Guidelines For Fresh-Cut-Food Processors

New guide urges adoption of safety practices throughout the supply chain.

The FDA on Monday published a draft final guidance for processors of fresh-cut produce on how to minimize microbial food safety hazards.

Personnel health and hygiene, training, building and equipment, sanitation operations and fresh-cut produce production, processing controls and recommendations on record keeping and recalls will be covered by the new guide.

The guide advises processors to consider using food safety programs like the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of microbial, chemical and physical hazards in food production. It also recommends that safe practices by adopted by partners throughout a company’s supply chain, from growers and packer to distributors and food service operators.

The document also incorporates comments on the FDA’s March 2006 draft on manufacturing practices regulations. It will become final once the White House Office of Management and Budget completes and authorization step under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

“Ensuring the safety of the American food supply is one of this Agency’s top priorities,” said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “Americans are eating more fresh-cut produce, which we encourage as part of a healthy diet. But fresh-cut produce is one area in which we see food-borne illness occur. Offering clearer guidance to industry should aid in the reduction of health hazards that may be introduced or increased during the fresh-cut produce production process.”

In Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday the Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations will have a hearing on improvements for food safety, focusing on the safety of fresh produce.

According to the FDA, the peeling, slicing, coring and trimming that fresh-cut produce goes through during processing can increase the risk of bacterial contamination and growth. Consumers can reduce the risk of illness by following safe handling practices like refrigeration and using clean hands, utensils and dishes for preparation.

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