Allergens are primary source of food safety reports in 2012

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON – Undeclared allergens, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) were the top three food safety incidences reported to the Food and Drug Administration during 2012, according to the agency’s third Reportable Food Registry (R.F.R.) annual report. The report, published May 1, reviewed food safety incidence reports filed with the R.F.R. between the dates of Sept. 8, 2011 to Sept. 7, 2012.

In the R.F.R. annual reports for 2010 and 2011, Salmonella ranked ahead of undeclared allergens as the most reported food safety incidence.

Reported food safety incidences associated with undeclared allergens, Salmonella and Lm led all other food safety threats by a wide margin, with allergens making up 37.9% of reports in 2012, Salmonella 28.1% and Lm 21.4%. The next closest reported food safety incidence was associated with un-eviscerated fish at 2.7%.

“Year 3 demonstrated a 23% increase to 85 entries (in the R.F.R.), up from 69 primary entries in year 1, in the number of primary reports for undeclared major food allergens, with the bakery commodity accounting for 18 of the total of 85 entries,” according to the report. “Within bakery, cookies and cakes were the predominantly reported food types. The 11 entries for the chocolate/confections/candy commodity were for products such as chocolate or yogurt coated dried fruits, icings/ganaches, and chocolate candies.”

Undeclared milk was the most reported allergen in the annual report. There were 35 specific incidences reported in 2012, up from 20 apiece in 2010 and 2011.

Data from the R.F.R. report indicated the “produce - raw agricultural commodity” category accounted for the majority of Salmonella-related reports during 2012. While Salmonella ranked second highest in the number of reports at 63 in 2012, it represented a decrease from 2010 and 2011, when there were 86 reports associated with Salmonella each year.

“The largest decrease in Salmonella was observed in the spices and seasonings commodity, with a total of five primary entries in year 3 compared to 23 in year 2, a difference of 18 primary entries,” the F.D.A. said. “This decline, in combination with the decrease of four entries in the animal food/feed commodity, accounts for the overall 26.7% decrease in Salmonella-associated primary entries in year 3.”

There were 48 reports associated with Lm in 2012, a 45% increase over the number of reports in 2010. The fresh cut produce category accounted for approximately one-third of the reports, with many linked to packaged salad products. Dairy, specifically cheese, accounted for 11 of the entries related to Lm.

Reportable Food Registry at a glance

There are three types of reports entered into the R.F.R. each year: primary, subsequent and amended.

A primary report is an initial report concerning a reportable food (an article of food that if consumed may cause serious adverse health consequences or even death in humans or animals) submitted by either industry or public health officials.

A subsequent report is a report by either a supplier (upstream) or a recipient (downstream) of a food or feed for which a primary report has been submitted.

An amended report comprises additional information supplied by an industry or public health submitter to correct or complete a primary or subsequent report.

Entries in the R.F.R. (primary, subsequent and amended reports) in 2012 totaled 1,095 compared with 882 in 2011 and 2,240 in 2010. Of these, primary entries (those required from industry and voluntary submissions from state regulatory agencies) totaled 224 in 2012 compared with 225 in 2011 and 229 in 2010.

Subsequent entries submitted in response to the primary entries and related to them totaled 609 in 2012 compared with 483 in 2011 and 1,872 in 2010. The F.D.A. noted the high number of subsequent reports in 2010 compared with 2011 and 2012 was attributed to 1,071 subsequent reports being entered in connection with a single primary entry related to Salmonella in a widely used ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

Amended entries in 2012 totaled 262, up from 174 in 2011 and 139 in 2010.

“The 88% increase (in amended reports from 2010) indicates that more facilities are submitting amended reports, which contain additional information to correct or complete a primary or subsequent report,” the F.D.A. said. “Amended reports may include updates about company investigations of problems and efforts to correct the causes.”

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