HVP – The Next Peanut Butter?March 5, 2010
By Ricardo Carvajal –
The ongoing recall of a widely used flavor enhancer known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein ("HVP") for possible contamination with Salmonella could mushroom to affect thousands of products. Although no illnesses have been reported thus far and FDA judges the risk to consumers as “very low,” FDA is applying a zero tolerance approach with respect to potentially affected products that are marketed as ready-to-eat, meaning products that will not undergo a kill step such as cooking at the hands of the consumer. With respect to potentially affected products that are intended to be cooked by the consumer, FDA is advising consumers to read and follow instructions on food preparation and cooking. For now, FDA is not asking for a recall of products that have a validated kill step.
According to senior agency officials, the HVP contamination incident came to FDA’s attention through the Reportable Food Registry ("RFR"). FDA is touting the importance of the RFR in bringing incidents such as this to FDA’s attention, but is also citing this incident as proof of the need for passage of food safety legislation. In FDA’s eyes, that legislation is needed to help accomplish a shift from response to prevention, including the establishment of standards that would prevent similar incidents. However, FDA has not as yet revealed any information about conditions of production in the facility implicated in the HVP recall, or explained how the imposition of additional requirements would have prevented the contamination of HVP with Salmonella.