FDA Issues Final Guidance For Safe Production of Fresh-Cut Fruits And Vegetables

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today published a draft final guidance advising processors of fresh-cut produce how to minimize microbial food safety hazards common to the processing of most fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, which are often sold to consumers in a ready-to-eat form.

The document — “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables” — suggests that fresh-cut processors consider a state-of-the-art food safety program such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, which is designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to acceptable levels the microbial, chemical, and physical hazards associated with food production.

The Guide complements FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations for food (21 CFR 110) and provides a framework for identifying and implementing appropriate measures to minimize the risk of microbial contamination during the processing of fresh-cut produce. Specifically, it discusses the production and harvesting of fresh produce and provides recommendations for fresh-cut processing in the following areas: (1) personnel health an hygiene, (2) training, (3) building and equipment, (4) sanitation operations, and (5) fresh-cut produce production and processing controls from product specification to packaging, storage and transport. The Guide also provides recommendations on recordkeeping and on recalls and tracebacks.

Voluntary guidelines have not worked in this industry over the last ten years, twenty-one E. coli outbreaks, over 1,000 illnesses (many quite severe) and at least six deaths.  This is an insult to the public and specifically to the families of people, many children, who have been sickened or died as a result of consuming “voluntarily” controlled fresh fruits and vegtables standards.