( Courtesy Texas Produce Association )

After months of collaboration, U.S. and Mexican papaya industry stakeholders have a food safety document specifically designed for the tropical fruit.

The first edition of the “Food Safety Best Practices Guide for the Growing & Handling of Mexican Papaya,” is the product of almost 10 months of work from members of the industry, researchers and government officials from both countries, according to a news release.

Dante Galeazzi, president of the Texas International Produce Association, said the work was industry-driven and government-supported.

Following a mid-2019 outbreak of Salmonella Uganda affecting 71 people, the Food and Drug Administration cited eight foodborne illness outbreaks traced to papayas, and called on the industry to fund research and step up food safety efforts.

“We had several meetings and identified an opportunity that would be both impactful and achievable in a short period of time – improving protocols and practices for the growing and handling of papayas,” Galeazzi said in the release.

Although the Mexican papaya industry was using common guidelines food safety guidelines, commodity-specific guidelines were desired by the industry, similar to the tomato and leafy greens industries.

Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology at the United Fresh Produce Association, participated in the process, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and Mexico’s equivalent of the FDA, SENASICA.

“Now, we must maintain momentum, encouraging education, implementation, and verification. Moving forward, we’ll utilize forthcoming research to improve this manual and the effectiveness of the best practices outlined herein,” McEntire said in the release.

The next step in the process is training seminars. Courses on the document will target growers and packers in Mexico.

“We want consumers to have confidence in our products the way we do, and we felt creating a higher standard for our industry was a necessary action,” Lance Peterson of Super Star International, which grows maradol papaya in Colima, said in the release. “I am pleased with this document and I look forward to working with the many incredible partnerships we’ve built over the course of this project, especially as we take the next steps.”

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