(June 14) Saying it wants to try to reduce the incidence of tomato-related foodborne illnesses, the Food and Drug Administration is starting a major tomato food safety initiative.

The program, announced June 12, is expected to start this summer in Virginia and during the fall in Florida.

The FDA says the program, part of an FDA’s produce safety action plan, will be a collaborative effort between the agency and the state health and agriculture departments in Florida and Virginia, according to a news release.

The plan is to have FDA and state health and agriculture department inspectors visit Florida and Virginia growing operations and packinghouses to review food safety practices.

Fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes have been associated with a dozen U.S. outbreaks of foodborne illnesses during the past decade that caused 1,840 confirmed illness, the FDA said.

“The majority of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina,” the FDA said in a news release.

The FDA says it will identify practices or conditions that could facilitate product contamination. That information, the FDA said, will allow the agency to update its tomato safety guidance and policy. The initiative will consider the need for additional produce safety research, education and industry outreach.

The FDA says its tomato safety initiative is supposed to complement its lettuce safety initiative.