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FDA Database Should Speed Contaminated Food Reporting

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 1:50 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Foodborne Illness, Public Health, E. Coli, Nestle Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter, Salmonella, Industrialized Agriculture, FDA

Manufacturers must report within 24 hours any contaminated food to an FDA database.


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Peanut butter in jar

Keep Contaminated Food Out of Stores

In order to move more quickly on reports of contaminated food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today unveiled a new electronic database, the Reportable Food Registry (RFR).

Instead of voluntary reporting, manufacturers will be required to alert government officials within 24 hours of learning about the potential of their food to cause severe health problems for humans or animals.

That can include, among other things, E. coli, salmonella, bacterial contamination, allergen mislabeling, or elevated levels of chemicals.

Any manufacturer is included that has to submit registration information to the FDA for a food facility that manufacturers, processes, packs, or holds food. If they fail to report, they could face an injunction, fines, or other punishment.

However, if the contaminated food is found and destroyed before it is shipped, it is not required to report.

The requirement took effect with the launch of the portal and is part of the President’s Food Safety Working Group that says, “preventing harm to consumers is our first priority.”

"President Obama has pledged to strengthen food safety," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The opening of the Reportable Food Registry electronic portal represents a significant step toward that pledge.”

The change, in part, stems from one of country's largest salmonella outbreaks linked to a peanut processing plant in Blakely, Georgia. The Peanut Corporation of America recall led to at least 9 reported deaths, hundreds of illnesses and a massive recall.

In recent years, bagged spinach, tomatoes, jalapenos and raw cookie dough have also been associated with foodborne illnesses and delays in reporting meant more contaminated food made it into the marketplace.

The database is designed to help the FDA prevent widespread illness and to direct inspectors more quickly to the source of the contamination.

The law that created the database was approved two years ago, after Congress criticized the FDA for a delay in reporting problem foods and drugs. #

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