September 1, 2014

FDA Puts $17 Million Into Produce Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded Illumina Inc. of San Diego a $17 million, five-year grant for genome analysis of produce-related pathogens including Salmonella and E.coli, the company has announced. The agency wants to enhance its capability to track the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Using enhanced genome sequencing technology, the FDA can upload data to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database in real time. The technology can also provide subtyping information and cluster analysis needed for foodborne illness outbreak investigations.

Foodborne illness affects one sixth of all Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the last five years, there have been an average of seven multi-state outbreaks. So far this year, there have been nine multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks. Of the three that are ongoing, two are produce-related-Salmonella in cantaloupes from Chamberlain Farms in Indiana and Salmonella in Daniella mangoes imported from Mexico. The third is for ricotta salata cheese imported form Italy that has been contaminated with Listeria.

Salmonella, the most common foodborne pathogen in the U.S, can be found on meat, produce and processed food items such as peanut butter. It can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness.

“Illumina applauds the FDA’s commitment to improving the public’s safety from foodborne illness outbreaks, as demonstrated by its decision to further integrate whole genome sequencing into its efforts,” Christian Henry, Illumina’s Senior Vice President, said in a statement.

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