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FDA considers spice supply safety

16-Mar-2010

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has met with members of the spice industry to consider ways to make supply safer, following salmonella contamination of salami products linked to black and red pepper.

Earlier this week, further pepper recalls were announced by the companies that supplied spices to Daniele International, Inc., the salami manufacturer that recalled its products after they were found to be tainted with salmonella in January. Daniele recalled more than a million tonnes of salami products on January 23, and soon after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its tests suggested the outbreak was related to pepper in the salami.

Now the FDA is trying to work out how to make spices safer. That could involve the spice industry treating its products with one of three possible kill steps for salmonella: irradiation, steam heating or fumigation with ethylene oxide, according to Jeff Farrar, FDA associate commissioner for food safety, quoted by the Washington Post.

"The bottom line is, if there are readily available validated processes out there to reduce the risk of contamination, our expectation is that they will use them," he was quoted as saying.

However, the FDA does not currently have the authority to order the spice industry to treat its products.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, currently awaiting a full Senate hearing after being unanimously passed by committee in November, would give the FDA the power to require food ingredients manufacturers to take steps to prevent contamination. A companion bill, the Food Safety Enhancement Act was approved by the House in July.

Salmonella is the most common bacterial pathogen associated with spice recalls and illness outbreaks, according to the American Spice Trade Association.

The recall of salami due to salmonella contamination at Daniele International has been linked to 249 illnesses across 44 states and the District of Columbia. No deaths have been associated with the recall.

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