FDA Outlines Efforts to Strengthen Microbiological Sampling of Food Products

Excerpt from: Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg  |  November 25 2015

The Food and Drug Administration has unveiled a new web resource to share more information about its sampling programs for food safety and has posted new information on a more robust microbiological surveillance sampling approach under development.

The agency has also announced that for fiscal year 2016 it will sample and test cucumbers and hot peppers under this program and will publish the test results on the web, including the total number of samples collected/tested, the collection date and sample type, and the pathogen detected for positive samples.

The FDA rolled out its new approach to microbiological surveillance sampling in 2014 as part of a broader effort to adopt a risk-based and preventive approach to food safety. The sampling focused initially on sprouts, whole fresh avocados and raw milk cheese aged 60 days, with more than 800 samples tested for three types of bacteria.

The new approach involves collecting a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over 12 to 18 months to ensure a statistically valid amount of data is available for decision making.

By contrast, the FDA’s past approach has involved the collection of a relatively small number of samples for many different commodities over many years.

The FDA indicates that by collecting a larger number of samples it is able to assess the prevalence of pathogens and determine if there are any common factors among the positive findings such as season, region, or whether the product was produced domestically or was imported.

Depending on the results obtained as part of its sampling activities, the FDA may react or take certain steps such as decreasing sampling (if few positive samples are obtained), implementing more targeted sampling if trends are identified, carrying out follow-up inspections, working with state or international regulatory partners to take corrective actions and implement preventive controls, developing new or enhanced industry guidance, and conducting outreach and information sharing to better protect consumers.

For more information on the FDA’s new approach to microbiological surveillance sampling, please contact:
Shelly Garg
(305) 894-1043.