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Kraft puts prevention, not testing, at heart of contamination battle

By Neil Merrett , 03-Apr-2009
Last updated on 07-Apr-2009 at 11:29 GMT

Amidst ongoing amendments to improve food safety after recent US contamination scares, Kraft Foods says that system design and prevention remain central to its hygiene plans as opposed to heightened testing.

While some trade groups seek to amend current food policy legislation in the country through measures like federally set, enforceable safety standards for fruit and vegetables, other processors believe that solutions should be tailored to specific production environments.

Although Kraft said that a system of comprehensive auditing was already in place through its operations, a group spokesperson claimed rolling out a ‘one size fits all’ testing policy may not always be the best means to improve product safety.

“To be effective, food safety plans must be tailored to each particular product and manufacturing condition,” a group spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com.

Although the company did not say if it would look to ramp up internal auditing of processors, the spokesperson said that no safety system was perfect and that Kraft Foods remained focused on continuous improvement.

“There is no one size fits all as every product has a unique need and varying degree of risk associated with it,” stated a spokesperson for the group. “Routine testing of ingredients and finished products and environmental monitoring vary greatly from plant to plant and product to product.”

Pistachio praise

The comments come after Kraft Foods was this week praised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for showing how the country’s food safety systems should work, after it discovered a salmonella outbreak in pistachios processed by one of its suppliers.

The discovery, which was uncovered during what the company called routine third party testing that it was not legally required to undertake, led central-California-based processor Setton Farms to voluntarily recall its 2008 pistachio crop due to an unrelated salmonella contamination.

“This recall was not triggered because of an outbreak, in contrast to the peanut butter,” FDA associate commissioner for foods David Acheson told reporters in a conference call. ”This is an example of the FDA getting out ahead of the curve.”

Industry calls

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents companies like Kraft, backed the FDA’s comments. However, the association said it had suggested a number of amendments to the current FDA system in a bid to ensure the risk assessor had sufficient funding and authority to uphold safer food production.

The suggestions include requiring all food manufacturers to adopt and update food safety plans so that they can be made available to the FDA.

To step up traceability, the GMA also suggested mandatory documentation by importers on the steps being used to police foreign suppliers, while also granting the FDA mandatory recall authority.

To back this increased scrutiny, the association said it also believed US Congress should increase the spending budget of the FDA to at least $900m as part of attempts to ‘rebuild’ its scientific capacity.

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