FDA Issues Draft Final Guidance Document on Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables HazardsMarch 30, 2007
In FDA’s “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables,” FDA states that Americans are eating more fresh produce, to the point that fresh-cut products are the produce industry’s “fastest growing segment.” Fresh-cut food processors are now faced with the task of handling a greater volume of product while still ensuring that the produce is safe. FDA notes that of the 72 foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce consumption from 1996 to 2006, 18 outbreaks, or 25 percent, were associated with fresh-cut produce.
FDA’s draft guidance document is intended to reduce the risk of microbial contamination of “fresh-cut fruits and vegetables that have been minimally processed (e.g., no lethal kill step), and altered in form, by peeling, slicing, chopping, shredding, coring, or trimming, with or without washing or other treatment, prior to being packaged for use by the consumer or a retail establishment.” Examples of fresh cut produce include salad mixes, cut melon, and peeled baby carrots.
Although fresh-cut produce products are subject to FDA’s food good manufacturing practices (GMPs), which are essentially intended to reduce the risk of producing adulterated or unfit food, FDA believes that the guidance will “complement the [GMPs] by suggesting more specific food safety practices for processors of fresh-cut produce.” The draft guidance covers worker health, hygiene, and training; building and equipment design, construction, and maintenance; sanitation operations; and production and process controls. The draft guidance also recommends that certain records be kept to document product information and practice and suggests that traceback and recall procedures be kept.