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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

11/28/23 Food Safety FOMO- recent happenings

Hello food safety community,

Here are a few things that have caught my attention. What’s caught yours?

CDC published a “plain language summary” of components of a strong food safety culture (summarized as employee commitment, resources, management commitment, and leadership). It includes a downloadable spreadsheet evaluation tool that is intended for restaurants but can be easily adapted.

FDA released the pesticide data report from FY 2021 for both human and animal foods, both domestic and imported. There are data tables, but I prefer the written report.  Figure 2 breaks the finding down by imported commodity so you can see which categories are most likely violative—good info to inform your FSVP plan and/or hazard analysis.

Cyclospora- it’s not one outbreak! I’ve lamented about this before but I keep seeing communications that there was a 2000+ person Cyclospora outbreak this summer. No! This is fake news! This is the TOTAL number of people ill from all kinds of food sources (most of which are unknown. So really, this represents the accumulation of many unrelated outbreaks and sporadic cases of illness). CDCs webpage is a bit vague (they show data similarly to how they present outbreak data) and a certain news outlet misrepresented it as one outbreak, and now others (who don’t look at actual source) have relayed this error.

In other Cyclospora news, NACMCF has released their final report, answering the questions that FDA charged the group with. I’d shared my thoughts on the spectacle of a public meeting that occurred the other month.

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) published their foodborne illness attribution estimates for 2021 (for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes), reviewing nearly 50,000 illnesses linked to over 1300 outbreaks to see which food categories contribute to illnesses/outbreaks. Notably, about 60% of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses were attributed to vegetable row crops, followed by 20% attributed to beef. Causes of Salmonellosis were much more varied, with none of the 17 categories responsible for more than 20% of illnesses. There were a few drivers of listeriosis, with dairy leading at ~40%, but given the low numbers, there’s more uncertainty/ lower confidence in these estimates.

I was delighted to be able to work on a few recently released documents, both developed with or by IFPA—one provides guidance on managing ag water, and the other highlights food safety practices for indoor growers in the CEA space. 

Industry guidance indeed can have an impact! When industries (including buyers) apply information (and go further in terms of verifying practices, and developing specific FSVPs based on commodity specific guidance), I’ve seen that food safety really can be improved. A great example is with the Mexican papaya industry.  The group put together a short video explaining the key components of the program (and actually, there was so much more). -I’d like to think it made a real difference!

Hope everyone has a great close to 2024.

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