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WASHINGTON -- Following Monday's release of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) completion of a guidance document that provides details on how best to apply mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GAPs) specifically to fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, officials from United Fresh Produce Association here pledged commitment to seeing the guidelines implemented in every produce processing operation.
Testifying before the Senate Agricultural, Rural Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee in Wisconsin, Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh, said: "We support specific enforceable standards for fresh-cut ready-to-eat produce, and have encouraged FDA to take the important step of completing its draft 'Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables.' "
The guidance document complements the FDA's regulations of good manufacturing practices and suggests that fresh-cut processors use safety programs such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), which are designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce microbial, chemical, and physical hazards associated with food production.
The document also provides recommendations on record-keeping and on recalls and tracebacks, and it addresses areas such as personal health and hygiene, training, building and equipment, sanitation operations, and production and processing controls.
The Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association said it welcomed FDA's guidance, which it said represents "one of the many important food safety efforts now taking place. We wholly support robust food safety programs and encourage our members -- who represent every link in the supply chain -- to constantly evaluate their food safety programs. PMA also supports consumer and food handler education on safe produce handling."
Having allocated $2.75 million to support new produce safety efforts -- including scientific research to investigate contamination sources and to develop protocols and solutions aimed at prevention -- PMA said, "Balanced regulatory solutions, such as the guidance issued by FDA today, will best be achieved by industry working collaboratively with federal and state officials."
The draft "Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables," issued Monday will be made final when the White House Office of Management and Budget completes an authorization step required by the Paperwork Reduction Act.
For a copy of the draft guide, visit http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/prodgui3.html.