She said that given the hazards, the industry must consider preventive controls for pathogens on fresh-cut produce and the raw material and how those controls would be verified.
While product testing is generally not a means for controlling a hazard, Scott said that product testing does play an important role in verification of preventive controls.
“Once control measures are put in place, then it is important to verify that they are doing what you expect them to do, and that may include some testing,” she said.
At that point, product testing can show if something has gone wrong, Scott said.
“We do think product testing is an important verification activity, particularly when preventive control is weak, if you don’t have a kill step for a pathogen,” he said.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C., said the National Turkey Federation started collecting testing data for food safety from their members to show results of data. The data is blinded as to origin but is made available to members and others to show trends.
“I know you represent lots of different kinds of produce and so your testing is more complicated, but I think the trade association can play a role in helping you guys develop food systems and even in doing this kind of data sharing,” Smith DeWaal said.
Samir Assar, director of the produce safety staff at the Office of Food Safety at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said the agency hopes to be more transparent with its testing data as it hopes the industry will share more of its testing data.
Assar said a new FDA project of genome sequencing of pathogens may offer the industry insights on the source of pathogens. “It’s an innovative tool that (industry) can take advantage of,” he said.