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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

FDA Issues Guidelines for Prepared Produce; Agency’s First Safety Effort For Precut Fruits, Vegetables Follows Increase in Illnesses

The Wall Street Journal weighed in today on the FDA’s new safety guidelines for prepared produce.
From the article:

Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who has sued Dole and other companies over outbreaks related to fresh-cut produce, said the FDA should focus more on outdoor areas, such as ground or surface water, than employee hygiene. “I certainly think that focusing on that is positive to employees and public health, but I’m certainly not convinced that it’s the most likely source of outbreaks.”
And Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the guidelines aren’t sufficient. “FDA’s strictly voluntary why-bother approach won’t address the myriad hazards showing up on foods and vegetables,” she says. “With the growth of imported produce, FDA needs to do more than recommend best practices.”
But David Gombas, vice president of technical services at the International Fresh-cut Produce Association, calls the guidelines “thorough,” and “practical.”
The new 64-page “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables” makes detailed recommendations for supervising employees and for cleaning and maintaining equipment. For example, it says, hoses that touch the floor shouldn’t touch fresh produce, food-contact surfaces or packaging materials and recommends that forklifts and other equipment go through sanitizer baths before entering areas with fresh produce. The FDA also suggested that companies make sure raw products never cross paths or mingle with finished fresh-cut produce. And, noting that cantaloupe, mangoes, tomatoes and some other types of produce are at risk if warm produce is placed in cooler water — because that tends to pull water, and possible pathogens, into the fruit or vegetable — it suggests cooling produce before immersion.

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