November 1, 2014

Salmonella Ranks Highest in Reports to FDA’s Early-Warning Registry

For the second year in a row, Salmonella accounted for the largest percentage of hazards reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under a new, early-warning reporting system.

Called the Reportable Food Registry, it requires manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors of FDA-regulated foods and animal feeds to quickly report to FDA any foods, feeds or ingredients that could result in serious adverse health consequences to humans or animals.

According to a new FDA report for the 12-month period that ended September 7, 2011, there were 225 primary, online reports involving 22 commodity categories. Salmonella accounted for 38.2 percent of reported hazards — a leading percentage that was very similar to the registry’s results in Year 1.

Undeclared allergens accounted for 33.3 percent and Listeria monocytogenes accounted for 17.8 percent of the 225 reports.

Looking deeper into the registry, there was a significant increase in the number of primary reports related to fresh produce. In Year 1 that number was 14, but it jumped to 27 in Year 2. Authors of the annual registry report attributed the increase to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sampling program intended to establish current baseline values of contamination involving harmful microorganisms in certain fruits and vegetables.

Another change from year to year was a 25 percent increase in the number of amended reports filed by facilities to expand on what they self-reported in initial reports.

The 174 amended reports suggest more facilities are informing FDA about their investigations of problems and their efforts to correct the causes, the agency said its key findings.

In three instances last year, reportable food submissions alerted FDA to potential public health issues early and helped the agency to quickly ensure that potentially harmful products did not reach the retail marketplace or were quickly removed. For instance, a company that had packed and shipped grape tomatoes from a Florida farm submitted a primary report when tests were returned showing positive results for Salmonella. A recall ensued for 10 states and Canada and no illnesses were reported.

Other Salmonella reports for the year pertained to shell eggs, walnuts, soy grits and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. The reporting program is an initiative of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Besides increasing the speed at which the agency can respond with appropriate follow-up action when reports are made, the Reportable Food Registry also is increasing the FDA’s ability to trace reportable foods upstream and downstream from where the contamination was detected. Results from the reporting year also will be used to identify key commodity risk points for establishing prevention controls, the agency has said.

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