Food industry participation in the first seven months of the Food and Drug Administration’s reportable food registry has helped prevent more than 100 potential food safety problems, agency officials said July 28.

Food registry is working, FDA says

Mandated by Congress, the registry system that requires manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors to report to a government website safety problems with food that are likely to result in serious health consequences.

Eleven of the 125 primary reportable food registry entries were related to fresh produce, with nine incidents related to contamination with salmonella and two with fresh-cut produce related to listeria. The fresh produce tally compared with 14 incidents with animal feed and pet food, 12 incidents related to seafood, 10 related to dairy products and nine related to bakery goods.

“From FDA’s standpoint, we see the first seven months being quite a success story,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said during a press briefing. “We see the sharing of information and getting the industry and FDA into a common problem-solving mode a very positive consequence of the reportable food registry.”

For the 125 primary reports, the FDA said salmonella accounted for 37% of the issues, while undeclared allergens made up 35% of reports and Listeria monocytogenes represented 13% of the total.

Given the limited time frame of report, Taylor said the results shouldn’t be used to draw conclusions on patterns of food adulteration. Over time, he said, the registry will be useful in tracking trends and understanding the patterns of problems.

Taylor said the registry is complimentary to inspections, consumer input and other channels the agency uses to prevent adulterated food from entering into commerce.

The agency doesn’t know what the rate of participation is for the registry, he said.

“We don’t know of incidences that should have been reported but haven’t been, but our sense is the industry is taking this very seriously,” Taylor said.

The produce industry has been complying with the reportable food registry, said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

“We’re not going to be above the average among the commodities on the food registry, but it is going to point out we still have a ways to go,” he said.