FDA Says New System Helped Identify Over 100 Food Safety Problems in First 7 Months

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report yesterday on the agency’s new Reportable Food Registry. According to FDA, over 100 food safety reports were electronically submitted by industry in the first seven months.

“The FDA’s new reporting system has already proven itself an invaluable

tool to help prevent contaminated food from reaching the public,” said

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor, who called the Registry a real “success story” for the agency, on a call with reporters yesterday.

The report, which analyzes reports to the Registry from September through March 2009, indicates the agency received 125 primary reports (initial

reports about a safety concern with a food or animal feed, including

food ingredients) and 1,638 subsequent reports from suppliers or

recipients of a food or feed.

Since early September, federal law has required any facility that manufactures, packs, or holds human or animal food to issue an electronic report to the agency if the company realizes it shipped potentially harmful food into commerce. Though the system has been in place for many months, not much has been known about how well the program is working.

Food Safety News reported in late November that the agency had received 385 reports on FDA-regulated foods from both food industry facilities and public health officials. Of the 385 initial reports, 70 were initial reports, 269 were subsequent reports, and 46 were amended reports.  An FDA official declined to say how many of the reports the agency followed up on.

According to an agency spokesperson, a review team meets each work day to discuss all submissions.

Yesterday the agency highlighted two actions that were prompted by the Registry:

-In February 2010, a recall of hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), was initiated without any reports of illness. More than 1,000 industry reports specifically for products containing HVP, resulted in the removal of 177 products from commerce.

 -In November 2009, a recall of products containing sulfites, without proper labeling, was initiated without any reports of illness after more than 100 reports regarding the ingredient.

According to FDA, for 125 primary reports, Salmonella accounted for 37 percent of hazards, undeclared allergens or intolerances accounted for 35 percent, and Listeria monocytogenes accounted for 13 percent.  Among the 11 different commodity categories involved were: 14 animal feed or pet food, 12 seafood, 11 spices and seasonings, and 10 dairy products.

Taylor was quick to note yesterday, however, that the results shouldn’t be taken as representative of all contamination incidents in the food supply, though eventually the agency hopes to use the data for identifying trends and target resources.  

“Industry is increasingly detecting contamination incidents through its own testing, and FDA access to this information permits us to better target our inspection resources and verify that appropriate corrective measures have been taken,” Taylor said.

The initial report can be read in its entirety here. Taylor told reporters yesterday the agency will periodically update the public on the Registry’s results.