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Drips Could Ruin Shredded Lettuce, Says FDA

Zuccaro’s Produce Co. in Minneapolis received a May 9 warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about drip or condensate in its building.

“Your plant and facilities must be constructed in such a way that drip or condensate from fixtures, ducts, and pipes does not contaminate food, food-contact surfaces, or food-packaging materials, to meet the requirements of 21 CFR 110.20 (b) (4)., the warning letter says.  “However, FDA observed condensate accumulating on the ceiling directly above the area where the shredded lettuce is rinsed in a flume in the fruit and vegetable processing room.”

FDA said the produce plant may have other violations, but it opted to focus on the danger from above.

“In addition, we note that fresh-cut vegetables and fruits have been associated with multiple food borne outbreaks,” FDA said in the warning letter.  “Processing fresh produce into fresh-cut products such as shredded lettuce increases the risk of bacterial growth and contamination by breaking the natural exterior barrier of the produce and by releasing fluids rich in nutrients.

“However, fresh-cut produce processors have the capability to reduce the risk of contamination by preparing fresh-cut produce in a controlled sanitary facility,” it added.

FDA recommended that Zuccaro’s purchase produce grown using Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and that the produce company process lettuce in a manner that will ensure its finished product does not contain pathogens.

FDA’s Minneapolis district office gave the produce company 15 business days to fix the drips. FDA inspected the company last Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

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