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FDA Says Reportable Food Registry is a Success

In its first full year of operation, the early warning system to track problems in the U.S. food  supply logged 2,240 reports of possible health hazards, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, called the Reportable Food Registry’s first-year record “a measure of our success” in helping regulators and the industry to move quickly to get dangerous foods off grocery shelves and out of the marketplace.

The registry, ordered by Congress, requires electronic reports to be filed within 24 hours if a company realizes it has shipped potentially harmful food. Once alerted, the FDA can work with state and local health and agriculture departments to investigate and, if necessary, assist with a recall.

In the first annual Reportable Food Registry Report, which details entries logged from Sept. 8, 2009 through Sept. 7, 2010, Salmonella contamination led the reported risks, accounting for 37.6 percent of the hazards. Undeclared allergens were close behind at 34.9 percent of the reports, followed by Listeria monocytogenes at 14.4 percent, E. col O157:H7 at 2.6 percent, uneviscerated fish at 2.2 percent and foreign objects at 1.3 percent.

Two particular hazards were apparent in the first year’s registry data:  Salmonella in spices, seasoning, fresh produce, animal feed/pet food, nuts and seeds; and allergens/intolerances in bakery goods, dried fruit and vegetables, prepared foods, dairy and candy.

In addition to 229 primary reports of safety concerns there were 1,872 subsequent reports from suppliers or recipients of suspect food or feed and 139 amended reports to correct or add information. 

Taylor said that as a result of RFR data, FDA can better decide where to target its testing and inspection resources, and several key food-industry players “are already re-evaluating their hazard and preventive controls.” For instance, because of the large number of Salmonella reports last year involving seasonings, a national trade association is developing guidance to reduce pathogen contamination in spices.

It was Salmonella-contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), a seasoning ingredient, at a Nevada food processor that caused the biggest spike in RFR reports last year.  There were more than 1,000 industry reports for products containing the HVP, which led to the largest recall of a single ingredient in 2010, involving 177 separate products.  The rapid response to the initial report is credited for the fact that no one got sick.

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