FDA researchers have found that processed avocados and finished guacamole can be contaminated with Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes, according to a recent report.
“The findings also underscore the need for processors and others in the processed avocado and guacamole supply chain to comply with the FDA rule on preventive human food controls and for importers of such foods to comply with the FDA Foreign Supplier Verification Programs Rule,” according to the research report.
Although the report was only released in the past few days, it covers a sample collection and testing program that ran from 2017 to 2019. The project tested over 800 samples, but was initially expected to verify 1 600 samples — 800 each from foreign and domestic companies — according to the Food and Drug Administration report.
The sample size reduction occurred in two waves. The first reduction came in July 2018 when the FDA adjusted its collection target to 1,200 samples – 936 domestic and 264 of international origin – after initial sampling confirmed that a relatively small number of companies, in particular national companies, produce and/or distribute processed avocados.
“In March 2019, the FDA further reduced its collection target to account for a 35-day lag in federal appropriations that began December 22, 2018 and the associated impact on field staff workload. of the agency. Similar slight adjustments were also made for the same reason to other food sampling missions,” according to the FDA report.
Ultimately, the FDA collected and tested 887 processed avocado and guacamole samples — 571 domestic and 316 internationally sourced — from November 2017 through September 2019.
The FDA has directed its field staff not to collect products that have undergone high pressure processing (HPP) or products intended for PPH. HPP is a kill step that has been shown to kill pathogenic microorganisms in foods, and is often used in the manufacture of processed avocados and guacamole. In seeking to exclude HPP-treated products, “the FDA’s intent was to focus on products that posed the greatest risk to consumers.”
The agency learned during its assessment of the test results that some of the products collected had received HPP treatment but were not labeled as such. FDA staff retrospectively worked with industry to identify the HPP processing status of collected samples, but could not determine the status of a number of samples. These samples were designated as “indeterminate” for the purposes of data analysis.
Findings and Action
The FDA has detected Salmonella spp. in two samples from the same brand of domestically produced guacamole from different lots. Neither of the two samples had received HPP treatment.
The agency detected Listeria monocytogenes in 15 samples from nine different companies. Of these 15 samples, eight had not been treated with PPH. The HPP treatment status of the other seven samples could not be determined.
“When the FDA detected a pathogen in a domestic sample, agency staff worked with the company that owned or distributed the affected product to perform a voluntary recall in any case where the product was available, or likely to still be available, to consumers,” according to the report.
The FDA also conducted a follow-up inspection of a nationwide facility, and Florida state officials conducted a nationwide inspection. The FDA refused to admit certain foreign batches associated with positive test results and placed two companies on import alert.
“In addition, the agency performed whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis on the positives, but was unable to determine whether processed avocado or guacamole was the dietary vehicle associated with human disease. known,” the report said.
In addition to confirming that Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes may be present in processed avocado and/or guacamole, sampling data show that the estimated prevalence of these pathogens in non-PPH treated samples was higher than in PPH treated samples. ‘PPH.
“This finding appears to support other research that shows PPH is effective in neutralizing pathogenic microorganisms, although this mission was not designed to compare possible differences based on PPH treatment status. “, reported the FDA researchers. The findings also underscore the need for processors and others in the processed avocado and guacamole supply chain to comply with the FDA rule on preventive controls for human food and for importers of these foods to comply with the FDA Foreign Supplier Verification Programs Rule.
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