FDA issues emergency guidance for food makers after water disruption

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency guidance for food manufacturers in areas subject to boil-water advisories, following a disruption of water supply in Massachusetts on May 1.

A major break in a water pipe that distributes water to communities east of Weston, Massachusetts caused the boil-water advisory that was lifted on Tuesday. The FDA said it worked in concert with the US Department of Agriculture and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority during the advisory period to address issues concerning the affected food industry.

Apart from stopping water use while the boil-water advisory was in effect, the FDA said food manufactured using the water should be evaluated, as Cryptosporidium bacteria could be present.

The FDA said that if water subject to the advisory was used as a food ingredient, adequate heat treatment would prevent risk by killing bacteria.

“If water subject to the advisory was used as an ingredient in food and the food was not heat treated by the food manufacturer, the product may present a risk to the consumer and should not be distributed unless FDA, in consultation with the affected state, determines that the risk is minimal and can be controlled with ordinary consumer cooking practices,”​ the FDA said.

Water in frozen food does not pose a risk if the food has been frozen for at least a week at 5 to 14°F, the agency said, or for 24 hours at less than 4°F.

For water used in ready-to-eat foods, water subject to the advisory would need to be heat treated or filtered to reduce the risk of bacteria.

The full FDA guidance for industry can be found online here​.

The boil-water advisory affected about two million people living in the Boston area.

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