February 25, 2015

TO: JPA Members

FROM: Patricia Faison

RE: JPA Regulatory Update
(1) Partnership to Develop the Branded Food Products Database for Public Health
(2) IFSAC Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution

Partnership to Develop the Branded Food Products Database for Public Health
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a Constituent Update, available here, and Federal Register notice (80 FR 9734; February 24, 2015) announcing the Agency will award a one-year grant in the amount of $35,000 to support the Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership’s (ATIP) Branded Food Products Database for Public Health to monitor the sodium content of branded foods and to make nutrient data available to the public. According to the notice, “a database that reflects the sodium content in foods will help the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine (OFVM) research strategies regarding sodium reduction and help the public maintain healthy diets.”

As you may recall, in June 2014, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told The Associated Press that the Agency is developing voluntary sodium reduction guidelines. The date for publication of the guidelines was not yet known. The collection of the sodium data may be part of the FDA’s effort to evaluate sodium in foods with a goal of publishing sodium reduction guidelines.

IFSAC Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution
Earlier this year, JPA members were notified of the efforts of the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) to improve foodborne illness source attribution. The IFSAC is composed of the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). The aim of the projects and studies undertaken by the group is to identify foods that are important sources of illnesses. Yesterday, the FDA issued a Constituent Update, available here, noting the IFSAC developed an improved method for analyzing outbreak data to determine which foods are responsible for illness pertaining to four major foodborne bacteria (Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli O157), Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), and Campylobacter). The IFSAC also released a report titled “Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli O157), Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), and Campylobacter using Outbreak Surveillance Data.” The report does not mention juices.

IFSAC analyzed data from almost 1,000 outbreaks that occurred from 1998 to 2012 to assess which foods were responsible for foodborne illnesses associated with Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria, and Campylobacter. The report notes these four pathogens are responsible for 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the U.S. The IFSAC attributed foodborne illnesses to 17 food categories (oils-sugars, fruits, seeded vegetables, sprouts, vegetable row crops, grains-beans, other produce, fish, other seafood, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, other meat & poultry, game, dairy and eggs).

Some of the report’s key findings, as noted in the Constituent Update include:

  • More than 80 percent of Listeria illnesses were attributed to fruit (50 percent) and dairy (31 percent). The report notes the estimate for fruit reflects the impact of a single large outbreak linked to cantaloupes in 2011.
  • More than 80 percent of E. coli O157 illnesses were attributed to beef and vegetable row crops, such as leafy vegetables.
  • Salmonella illnesses were broadly attributed across food commodities, with 77 percent of illnesses related to seeded vegetables (such as tomatoes), eggs, fruits, chicken, beef, sprouts and pork.
  • Nearly 75 percent of Campylobacter illnesses were attributed to dairy (66 percent) and chicken (8 percent).

According to the Constituent Update, the Agencies anticipate the work will enhance their efforts to prevent foodborne illness. In addition, the new source attribution estimates, combined with other data, may, in part, shape Agency priorities and support the development of regulations and performance standards and measures.

As always, please contact me with questions or comments.

Patricia Faison

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