FDA, Mexico collaborate to ensure papaya safety

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart agencies in the Mexican government—the National Service for Agroalimentary Public Health, Safety, and Quality (SENASICA) and the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS)—are expanding their collaboration to reduce the risk of contamination of food that moves across the US-Mexican border.

This new level of collaboration has added importance as papayas from Mexico have been linked to approximately 100 cases of Salmonella Agona in 23 US states.

US and Mexican officials have been working closely together to find the source or sources of contamination of Salmonella in fresh papayas entering the United States from Mexico. From May 12, 2011, to August 18, 2011, FDA analysis found a 15.6% Salmonella contamination rate. The positive samples were from 28 different firms and include nearly all the major papaya producing regions in Mexico.

Now, under an FDA Import Alert issued August 25, 2011, papayas from each source in Mexico may be denied admission into the United States unless the importer shows they are not contaminated with Salmonella, such as by using private laboratories to test the papayas. FDA may consider five consecutive commercial shipments over time, analyzed from a validated laboratory, as being adequate for removal from the Import Alert.

Simultaneously, FDA and Mexican officials are stepping up their joint effort to trace recent contamination incidents to their source and discover their cause or causes, in order to inform future prevention strategies. FDA and Mexican officials also are collaborating on laboratory methodologies used in Mexico for testing fresh papayas for Salmonella.

The Mexican government and papaya industry have agreed to a longer-range action plan that will define proper food safety procedures throughout the chain of production and distribution in Mexico and verify that the procedures are working effectively through product testing and other government oversight. Mexican officials are overseeing the industry’s implementation of the action plan, and the FDA is collaborating with the Mexican government in this effort.

The FDA has also been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health and regulatory officials, including those in Texas and Illinois. Agromod Produce Inc of McAllen TX voluntarily recalled its papayas July 23, 2011, after FDA found the outbreak strain in samples of Agromod papayas.

Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, the FDA is developing a proposed rule for the safe production and harvesting of both domestic and imported produce. The proposed rule is expected to be released by early 2012. In addition, a proposed rule for preventive controls for food facilities required to register with FDA is expected in late 2011.

For more information, visit www.fda.gov/.

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