FDA targets cucumbers and hot peppers as part of its FY 2016 sampling program.

  • Since 2014, FDA has been developing a robust surveillance sampling program intended to promote food safety.  The Agency’s sampling approach involves the collection of a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over a 12- to 18-month period and the testing of samples for microbial contaminants.  During the first year of the program, FDA focused on sampling sprouts, whole fresh avocados, and raw milk cheese; the Agency collected more than 800 samples in total and tested them for the presence of Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157:H7.  FDA plans to release data from the completed sampling/testing soon.
  • For fiscal year 2016, FDA has indicated its intent to sample and test cucumbers and hot peppers for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, taking 1,600 samples of each commodity.  Hot peppers also will be tested for Shiga toxin producing E. coli.  The Agency will conduct whole genomic sequences on any samples that test positive.
  • According to FDA, the data and results generated as part of its sampling program will be used to inform the agency’s “short and longer term decision making.”  With respect to individual companies and facilities that produce the sampled commodities, positive tests may serve as the basis for follow-up inspections or enforcement action.  From a broader, industry-wide perspective, the results of the sampling program could influence the Agency’s risk classification of particular commodities and its approach to future sampling and regulation.  It also remains to be seen whether FDA’s plan to release test results will have a positive or negative impact on consumer perception and the market for sampled commodities.