FDA Releases Fresh-Cut Safety Guidance

March 12, 2007

FDA released a draft of the final Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables March 12. Although outbreaks associated with produce have not increased over the last decade, the proportion attributed to fresh-cut produce has, said Nega Beru, director of the office of food safety for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).

Fresh-cut produce may have an increased risk of contamination because the natural barriers of produce are broken during processing and there are more workers and machinery handling the produce, Beru said.

FDA is issuing the voluntary guidance because, in theory, outbreaks are preventable. The agency is interested in how and where contaminants get on produce and how to prevent it. This guidance is one more step in that process, said David Acheson, director of CFSAN.

”Ensuring the safety of the American food supply is one of this agency’s top priorities,” said Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA’s commissioner. “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.”

The guidance identifies specific safety areas for fresh-cut processors including worker health and hygiene, training, building and equipment, sanitation operations and controls for packaging, storage and transport. FDA also encouraged the use of HACCP programs and adopting safety practices throughout the supply chain. Traceback, recalls and recordkeeping also are addressed in the document.

FDA will announce when the White House Office of Management and Budget finalizes the guidance.

FDA has a copy of the guidance on its Web site, at www.cfsan.fda.gov/guidance.html.