FDA letter on papaya outbreaks puts industry on notice

FDA letter on papaya outbreaks puts industry on notice

In case you missed it, the FDA put the papaya and produce industry on notice. 

In a recent letter, the FDA stated, “We have doubled down on our efforts to ensure the safety of imported food. This includes issuing a new Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food and requesting new funding from Congress to support our efforts.” 

The FDA outlined how they will “continue to focus on shifting our work upholding food safety from response to prevention. We know that there are times where we will still need to respond to problems when they arise, including outbreaks of foodborne illness.”

The FDA’s assessment of this situation was:  “Unfortunately, since 2011, American consumers have been exposed to eight outbreaks caused by Salmonella serotypes linked to imported, fresh papaya. And, just this June we started an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda illnesses tied to the consumption of whole, fresh papaya imported from Mexico. While the 2019 outbreak is ongoing, the first seven outbreaks accounted for almost 500 reported cases of illness, more than 100 hospitalizations, and two deaths.”

The letter goes on to say, “This trend has to stop.” It then further explains how the papaya industry must do more, including using strong language speaking to the recurring nature of the outbreaks, saying it “is a clear indication that more must be done within all sectors of the papaya industry to protect its customers and to meet its legal obligations.”

 In the letter, the FDA letter stated that within the papaya industry “procedures and practices that minimize that contamination must be implemented.” This included a call for additional monitoring, enhanced traceability and research. 

Speaking to the produce industry as a whole, the FDA said, “Although today’s actions focus on the papaya industry, recurring outbreaks taking place with any commodity are unacceptable from a public health perspective. We know that more must be done by the industry as repeated illness outbreaks are a threat to public health.”

 In my opinion, this letter represents some pretty stern language from the FDA. They are obviously looking to send a strong message to importers and produce industry members by citing what has happened in the papaya industry. The FDA pointed out the shared responsibility to protect public health and how the Food Safety Modernization Act and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs are the platforms to strengthen food safety safeguards. Last, but not least, the FDA also sent a clear message of their commitment to use “all of our regulatory authorities and enforcement tools available.” Overall, I believe the FDA is sending a clear message around their commitment to strengthen food safety safeguards in the produce industry,
To read the entire letter, go to https://go.usa.gov/xVjBM

Craig Carlson of Carlson Produce Consulting LLC is an industry leader that is committed to building high performance programs within the produce supply chain.