Salmonella-tainted papayas spark US-Mexico safety crackdown

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety

US and Mexican authorities unveiled plans to boost food safety controls after papaya imports from the Central American country have been linked to an ongoing a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it had launched the initiative with its Mexican counterparts as around 100 Salmonella Agona cases across 23 states had so far been linked to papaya exported from Mexico over the past four months.

Officials from the national authorities said tests had shown 15 per cent of shipments of the fresh fruit between 12 May and 18 August 2011 were tainted with the pathogen. Contaminated samples have been found in produce from 28 firms located in nearly all of Mexico’s papaya-producing regions, said the FDA.

The agency said Mexican papayas could be turned away at its borders unless shipments are accompanied by proof – such as laboratory test results – that they are not contaminated.

Mexican food safety overhaul

Authorities from the countries are also collaborating on the development of laboratory methods used to test papayas and implementation of best practice throughout the supply chain.

The FDA and Mexican officials announced they are also stepping up joint efforts to trace recent contamination incidents back to their source to discover their cause. The agencies said any findings would form the basis for future prevention strategies.

The Mexican government and papaya industry players are said to have hammered out a” longer range action plan” to define proper food safety procedures throughout the domestic food production and distribution chain.

A vital part of the process will seek to verify that the procedures are working effectively through product testing and other government oversight. Officials in Mexico are working with the FDA on an implementation plan for this, said the US body.

New FDA measures expected

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, which became law in January 2011, the FDA said it is developing a proposed rule for the safe production, and harvesting of both domestic and imported produce. The new measure is expected to be released by early 2012.

A proposed rule for preventive controls for food facilities required to register with FDA is expected in late 2011.

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