(April 11, 12:00 p.m.) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations for the ready-to-eat foods industry on methods to control listeria monocytogenes simply don’t work for fresh cut processors, according to one expert.

David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the biggest problem with the non-mandatory guidance — issued in February for makers of frozen or refrigerated ready-to-eat food — is the one-size-fits-all approach.

Specifically, he said the FDA asks the industry to test all product lots coming in if the commodity may contain listeria. The FDA was taking comments on the plan through mid-April.

While not legally binding, the plan might be required of suppliers from their customers.

That presents a problem for fresh-cut processors, Gombas said.

“When you say fresh produce may contain listeria, it may, but to test every lot — it just doesn’t make sense,” Gombas said. “I don’t see any expertise in this writing or within the FDA for the fresh-cut industry. It doesn’t seem to apply.”

An FDA spokesman could not be reached for comment April 10.

“Most of what is in the guidance fits well for the processed food industry, but my comment back to (the FDA) is that it has got to be risk-based,” Gombas said.

In comments submitted to the administration, Gombas said United Fresh was unaware of any systematic survey of commercially grown raw fruits and vegetables that show detection of listeria monocytogenes was anything more than a rare or occasional happening.

What’s more, Gombas said 2003 statistics form the federal government’s listeria risk assessment showed no reports of listeriosis outbreaks in the U.S. with a possible linkage to raw vegetables since 1979.

“Many fresh-cut fruits and vegetables have never been reported to test positive for listeria monocytogenes,” Gombas wrote in the comments.

Gombas said consequences of the plan could be dire for the fresh-cut industry, to the point of pricing fresh-cut processors out of the market.

Testing for listeria monocytogenes requires two days for initial negative result, and up to an additional five days if the sample tests presumptively positive, Gombas said in comments to the FDA.

“We respectfully submit to the FDA that, while the testing recommended in the guidance may be appropriate for some ready-to-eat processed foods, they could kill the commercialization of fresh-cut products,” he said.