FDA has oversight of more than 166,000 registered domestic food facilities, including manufacturers, processors, warehouses, storage tanks and grain elevators. Under the new preventive control rules, most human food facilities would be required to have a written plan that

  • evaluates hazards that are reasonably likely to occur in food, such as pathogens (disease-causing organisms) and allergens.
  • specifies the steps that will be put in place to minimize or prevent those hazards.
  • specifies how these controls will be monitored.
  • maintains routine records of the monitoring.
  • specifies what actions will be taken to correct problems that arise.

The plan would specify the steps that will be put in place to minimize or prevent those hazards, and the actions that will be taken when problems arise.

Food facilities “must think up front about what they have to do to keep the food safe,” says Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods.

“While the plan will come from the food companies, the planning and execution are done under the watchful eye of FDA,” notes Donald Kraemer, senior advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The agency will evaluate the plans and will continue to inspect the facilities,” he says.

Produce Safety

These standards include requirements addressing major areas specific to agriculture that can be the conduit for contaminants:

  • Irrigation and other agricultural water
  • Farm worker hygiene
  • Manure and other additions to the soil
  • Intrusion of animals in the growing fields.
  • Sanitation conditions affecting buildings, equipment and tools

The proposed rule also includes additional provisions applicable to the growing, harvesting and packing of sprouts, which are more vulnerable in their growing environment to harmful bacteria.

FDA staff traveled to 13 states and numerous farms to get a first-hand understanding of the diversity of farms and farming practices. “We met with Amish growers in the Ohio valley, organic and sustainable farmers throughout the nation’s heartland, small farmer cooperative members who supply major metropolitan areas, and large commercial growers and shippers,” says Kraemer.

Kraemer explains that there are many variables to consider. With water, for example, the actions farmers would be required to take depend in part on the kind of irrigation system used and whether the water comes in direct contact with the fruit or vegetable. The bottom line, though, would be that “you can’t use water that would cause food to be contaminated,” he says.

Food Safety Foundation

April 30, 2013

For the Food and Drug Administration, prevention is at the heart of food safety.

“Preventing problems before they cause harm is not only common sense, it is the key to food safety in the 21st century,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A.
Hamburg, M.D. “We cannot afford to wait until people become ill to realize there is a problem.”

Prevention is the core principle of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that President Obama signed into law in 2011, creating a blueprint for the most sweeping changes to the nation’s food protection system since Theodore Roosevelt held office.

In accordance with that law, FDA is promulgating five new rules to support and strengthen the nation’s food safety system for the 21st century. Together, the proposed rules will establish requirements for farmers, food companies and importers to prevent foodborne illness.

The first two have been proposed and published for public comment:

  • Preventive Controls for Human Food: This rule sets safety requirements for facilities that process, package or store food for people. (There is a separate, upcoming rule for animal food.) The rule will require that food facilities implement “preventive controls,” a science-based set of measures intended to prevent foodborne illness.
  • Produce Safety: The food-safety law requires that science-based standards be set for the production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables, and FDA is proposing such standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on farms.

Tainted Foods

September 15, 2011

In the past five years, consumers have faced widespread outbreaks of foodborne illnesses tied to foods—such as spinach, peanut butter and eggs—that are staples of the American diet.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to prevent or shorten these outbreaks by developing the tools needed to rapidly track down foods that may be contaminated.

Two pilot projects—one for processed foods and the other for produce—will be conducted to explore how FDA and the food industry can quickly trace foods back to the common source of contamination that led to an outbreak of foodborne illnesses. These pilots must include at least three different types of foods that were the subject of significant outbreaks in the five years preceding the January 2011 enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) will carry out the pilots, at FDA’s direction, under an existing contract with the agency. IFT is a Chicago-based nonprofit scientific society focused on food science and technology and has previously worked with FDA on product-tracing studies.

These pilots are mandated by the landmark food safety law that requires FDA to implement a system that is based on science and addresses food safety hazards from farm to table.

“We can prevent illnesses and reduce the economic impact to the food industry if we can more quickly discover what food may be causing an outbreak and what foods can be eliminated from consideration,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods.

 

Food Safety

November 30, 2010

Parties, family dinners, and other gatherings where food is served are all part of the holiday cheer. But the merriment can change to misery if food makes you or others ill.

Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk:

  • older adults
  • infants and young children
  • pregnant women
  • people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune systems
  • people who take medicines that suppress the immune system; for example, some medicines for rheumatoid arthritis

Combating bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants in our food supply is a high priority for the Food and Drug Administration. But consumers have a role to play, too, especially when it comes to safe food handling practices in the home.

“The good news is that practicing four basic food safety measures can help prevent foodborne illness,” says Marjorie Davidson, a consumer educator at FDA.

In its Holiday Food Safety Success Kit, the Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends:

  • Whether it is cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165ºF. For optimum safety, cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is recommended.
  • Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven.
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using.
  • The turkey should be stuffed loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Any extra stuffing should be baked in a greased casserole dish.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers more information on stuffing safety at its Turkey Basics Web page.