HomeUncategorizedFDA Calls on Papaya Industry to Take Action to Prevent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
FDA Calls on Papaya Industry to Take Action to Prevent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
On August 26, the FDA issued a letter to all sectors of the papaya industry to take action to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks. As noted in the letter, since 2011, consumers have been exposed to eight outbreaks caused by Salmonella serotypes linked to imported, fresh papaya. In June of this year, FDA started an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda illnesses tied to the consumption of whole, fresh papaya imported from Mexico. While the 2019 outbreak is ongoing, the first seven outbreaks accounted for almost 500 reported cases of illness, more than 100 hospitalizations, and two deaths.
In the letter, the FDA stated that it intends to use all the tools and enforcement powers available to the Agency to further strengthen safeguards and prevent contaminated papayas from being imported into the U.S. Such tools include education, outreach, training, enforcement, and research activities. However, the FDA noted that more must be done within the industry to protect customers and meet legal obligations, such as the requirements set forth under the Produce Safety Rule and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. Thus, the Agency set forth a number of action items for the papaya industry to implement:
Assess the factors that make crops vulnerable to contamination. If a foodborne pathogen is identified in the crop or growing environment, a root cause analysis should be performed to determine the likely source of contamination. Procedures and practices that minimize that risk must be implemented.
Examine the use and monitoring of water used to grow, spray (pesticides, fungicides), move, rinse or wax crops to identify and minimize risks from potential hazards.
Adopt tools and practices needed to enhance traceability. Papayas are a perishable commodity, and traceability information should facilitate the rapid tracking of involved product to expedite its removal from commerce, prevent additional consumer exposures, and properly focus any recall actions.
Fund and actively engage in food safety research to identify the potential sources and routes of microbial pathogens and develop data-driven and risk-based preventive controls.
FDA noted that the pattern of recurrent outbreaks observed since 2011, including the 2019 illnesses, have involved papaya grown in Mexico. As mentioned in both the industry letter and an agency press release, the FDA has increased sampling and screening of papayas at the U.S.-Mexico border, and is actively collaborating with counterparts in the Mexican government to further prevention efforts. Additionally, FDA has issued a warning letter to the papaya importer, Agroson’s LLC, due to significant violations of the Federal Food, drug, and Cosmetic Act found at the facility in conjunction with the latest Salmonella outbreak.