Mar 15, 2012
Tomatoes selected for FDA traceability study

The FDA has announced that tomatoes are among the foods selected for a product tracing pilot to be conducted under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Tomatoes were chosen because they have been involved in a number of significant and repeat outbreaks of foodborne illness, according to the FDA. Because they represent a complex food supply chain, tomatoes were identified by most industry associations as a top candidate for the produce-related component of the pilot.

FDA is contracting with the Institute of Food Technologists to carry out the pilots under its direction. Rules call for two pilots to be conducted: one with the processed food sector and one with processors or distributors of raw fruits and vegetables.

According to the FDA, the pilots will help determine what data are most needed to trace a product that has been distributed widely in the marketplace back to a common source. Tracing product forward, such as in the case of an ingredient known to be contaminated, will also be tested.

In the tomato pilot, investigators will be looking at tomatoes grown in fields and greenhouses; whole and sliced; and distributed to restaurants and other institutions like hospitals, schools and nursing homes, and through grocery stores.

FDA says that nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations have been asked for input in helping develop the pilot projects. The results are expected to be completed this summer and will be used to help develop a comprehensive product tracing system.

Other foods targeted by the pilots include frozen Kung-Pao-style dishes that contain peanut products, red pepper spice and chicken; and jarred peanut butter and dry, packaged peanut/spice.

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