Food Safety Magazine

News | December 10, 2018

FDA Testing of Domestic and Imported Fresh Produce Finds Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Cyclospora

By Staff

FDA Testing of Domestic and Imported Fresh Produce Finds Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Cyclospora

Two new reports on the sampling of whole, fresh avocados and hot peppers were released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week. The purpose of the sampling is to determine how frequently harmful bacteria are found in each commodity. These sampling studies are part of an ongoing effort by the FDA to help ensure food safety and prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers. 

Hot Pepper Sampling Assignment

  • Types of peppers collected, tested, and analyzed: domestic and imported
  • Number of samples: 1,615
  • Tested for: Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and other types of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)
  • Result: 46 (2.85 percent) were positive for Salmonella
  • Result: 1 was positive for STEC, but further testing revealed that the STEC strain could not cause severe illness.

Whole Fresh Avocado Sampling Assignment

  • Types of peppers collected, tested, and analyzed: domestic and imported
  • Number of samples: 1,615 (For Listeria testing, 1,254 were pulp samples and 361 were skin samples)
  • Tested for: Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes
  • Result: 12 (0.74 percent) tested positive for Salmonella
  • Results of pulp testing: 3 (far less than 1 percent) were positive for Listeria monocytogenes
  • Results of skin testing: 64 (17.73 percent) were positive for Listeria monocytogenes

When the FDA found positive samples of hot peppers or avocados in domestic product, the agency worked with the responsible firms to conduct recalls as indicated, and followed up with inspections of growers and packinghouses to ascertain their adherence to recommended good agricultural and manufacturing practices. When the FDA found positive samples of hot peppers or avocados in imported product, the agency refused entry to all product in lots associated with the positive(s), and placed the firms on import alert to stop additional product from entering the U.S.

FDA’s release of these two reports also included an update on the agency’s ongoing testing of fresh herbs, guacamole, and processed avocado. FDA has been monitoring the potential pathogens associated with these products. The data is valid as of October 1, 2018.

Fresh Herb Sampling

  • Samples collected and tested: 407 domestic and 276 imported
  • Result: 9 tested positive for Salmonella (4 domestic, 5 import)
  • Result: 6 tested positive for STEC (2 domestic, 4 import) (the STEC were incapable of causing severe illness)
  • Result: 4 tested positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis (2 domestic, 2 import)
  • Result: The FDA did not detect 0157 in any of the fresh herb samples it tested.

Processed Avocado/Guacamole Sampling 

  • Samples collected and tested: 474 (386 domestic and 88 imported)
  • Result: 11 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes (9 domestic, 2 import)
  • Result: The FDA did not detect Salmonella in any of the samples of processed avocado or guacamole.

See FDA’s Microbiological Survey Sampling page for more information. 

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