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The US FDA announced has a large-scale sampling and testing program of fresh cilantro, parsley, basil, processed avocados/guacamole. 1600 samples of each item will be tested for Cyclospora, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Shiga-toxin producing E. coli

SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 027/18

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The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has announced a large-scale sampling and testing program for fresh cilantro, parsley, basil and processed avocado products and guacamole. About 1600 samples from each category will be tested for Cyclospora, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) such as E. coli O157:H7 [1]. This sampling and testing will include both domestic and imported product and will take 18 months to complete.

Over a period of 19 years there have been nine foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to basil, parsley and cilantro, resulting in 2,699 illness and 84 hospitalizations. The US FDA is trying to establish baseline information on the prevalence of Salmonella and STEC in these herbs. During the summer months, the US FDA will test these herbs for Cyclospora cayetanensis because this parasitic pathogen was the cause of seven of the nine outbreaks. As of January 1, 2018, 35 domestic and 104 import samples were tested. No positive results were found in the domestic samples, but four imported samples tested positive for Salmonella and three were positive for STEC of which none were E. coli O157:H7.

Over a period of ten years there were 12 outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with processed avocado products and guacamole, resulting in 525 illness and 23 hospitalizations. Of these, nine outbreaks involved Salmonella and three were for E. coli. While no outbreaks were associated with Listeria monocytogenes, recent testing detected its presence so the US FDA is testing for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. As of January 1, 2018, 58 domestic and 49 import samples were tested. Three of the domestic and one of the imported samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Imported products with positive samples will be refused entry and the company involved subjected to import alerts. Domestic products that test positive can be recalled, detained or other action taken against specific products and the firms in question. It is not usual for the US FDA to establish a sampling and testing program based on outbreak data.

SGS has ISO 17205 accredited microbiological labs throughout the world that can perform traditional and rapid microbial testing for many pathogenic and indicator organisms.

Next step:

It is not usual for the US FDA and State regulators to test for pathogenic microorganisms in products that do not have a kill step before consumption. Therefore. it is necessary for any item that could be contaminated with these pathogens to be subjected to a sampling and testing program that can assure regulatory compliance.

For enquiries, please contact:

James Cook
Food Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager
t: +01 973 461 1493

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