Salmonella accounted for 37.6% of the reports submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Reportable Food Registry (RFR) Annual Report between September 2009 and September 2010, according to the first annual release of the report in January. Undeclared allergens and intolerances made up nearly as many reports, at 34.9%, with Listeria monocytogenes making up 14.4% of incidents.
All facilities that manufacture, process, or hold food for consumption in the U.S. must alert the FDA within 24 hours if they discover a reasonable probability that a food item will cause severe health problems or death to a person or an animal. During its first year, the RFR received 229 primary reports, 1,872 subsequent reports related to primary reports, and 139 amended reports correcting or adding information.
“There seems to be a high degree of compliance with the RFR requirement so far,” said Purnendu C. Vasavada, PhD, a professor of food science at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “I think if I were in industry and had worried that this would be too cumbersome of a reporting requirement, it doesn’t appear that that is the case. I think it’s a good thing for both industry and the FDA, because it allows them to work on the same page and be proactive.”
Dr. Vasavada noted that the RFR can also help pinpoint the most common types of foodborne hazards. “We had suspected, for example, that Salmonella was one of the major problems, and this confirms that,” he said. “On the other hand, something like E. coli0157:H7 gets a lot of press, but the RFR demonstrates that, at 2.6% of incidents, it’s not nearly the source of problems that Salmonella is.”
Dr. Vasavada said that going forward, the RFR will allow both industry and government regulators to track the impact of new interventions. “It allows you to see if new regulations that the government places on industry are effective,” he said. “Or if industry does an audit and implements new systems, they can see if reportable incidents go down as a result.”