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New Early Detection System Helps FDA Identify More than 100 Food Safety Problems in First 7 Months

Posted Jul 28 2010 10:51am

New Early Detection System Helps FDA Identify More than 100 Food Safety Problems in First 7 Months
Electronic portal speeds identification and investigation of potential health hazards in human food, animal feed, pet food industries 

More than 100 food safety reports were submitted by industry to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new electronic portal in its first months of operation, the agency said today.

Mandated by Congress, the Reportable Food Registry (the Registry) is a new system that requires manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors to immediately report to the government safety problems with food and animal feed, including pet food, that are likely to result in serious health consequences. 

“The FDA’s new reporting system has already proven itself an invaluable tool to help prevent contaminated food from reaching the public,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael R. Taylor. 

A report summarizing the Registry’s first seven months of operation (September 2009 -March 2010) finds that it logged 125 primary reports – initial reports about a safety concern with a food or animal feed (including food ingredients) – and 1,638 subsequent reports from suppliers or recipients of a food or feed for which a primary report had been submitted, from both domestic and foreign sources. These reports help FDA and the food industry locate hazardous foods in the supply chain and prevent them from reaching consumers.

Two notable reports first identified through the Registry prompted the following:

  • A February 2010 recall of hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), without any report of illness. More than 1,000 industry reports specifically for products containing HVP, resulted in the removal of 177 products from commerce.
  •  A November 2009 recall of products containing sulfites but not labeled as such.  More than 100 reports regarding the inadvertent use of an ingredient containing sulfites in two nationally distributed prepared side dishes that were not labeled as containing sulfites resulted in their removal without any reports of illness.

Among the 125 primary reports, Salmonella accounted for 37 percent of hazards, undeclared allergens or intolerances accounted for 35 percent, and Listeria monocytogenes accounted for 13 percent. Among the 11 different commodity categories involved were: 14 animal feed or pet food, 12 seafood, 11 spices and seasonings, and 10 dairy products. Because the Registry has been operational for only a short period, it is too early to draw inferences concerning patterns of food and feed adulteration. 

“Industry is increasingly detecting contamination incidents through its own testing, and FDA access to this information permits us to better target our inspection resources and verify that appropriate corrective measures have been taken,” Taylor said. “Ensuring that the American food supply is safe is a top priority of the FDA, and the Reportable Food Registry strengthens our ability to help prevent foodborne illness.”

Under legislation enacted in 2007 that created the Registry, industry must report foods or feeds that present a reasonable probability of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals to the FDA within 24 hours. The law does not apply to infant formula or dietary supplements, which are covered by other mandatory reporting systems. The Registry does not receive reports about drugs or other medical products, reports about products under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or reports from consumers.

If information indicates that a food or feed product may have been intentionally adulterated, the FDA immediately notifies the Department of Homeland Security.

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