Today the FDA launched a new and improved web search tool for consumers to use during recalls.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in January by President Obama called for a more consumer-friendly recall search engine.

How does the new site work? Search results provide data from news releases and other recall announcements in the form of a table. That table organizes information from news releases on recalls since 2009 by date, product brand name, product description, reason for the recall and  the recalling. The table also provides a link to the news release on each recall for more detailed information.

A quick look at the new site showed some favorites – Skippy, Teavanna and DelMonte (cantaloupes) all listed as recalled because of  salmonella.

Under FSMA, FDA was required to provide a consumer-friendly recall search engine 90 days after the law went into effect.  The  law also requires that recalls conducted under FSMA indicate whether the recall is ongoing or completed. Believe it or not, prior to passage of FSMA, FDA did not have mandatory recall authority for food and feed products other than infant formula.

And while this is a good thing, don’t look for your turkey, beef or chicken recalls at this site. That’s all handled by the USDA, not the FDA. Getting better but still confusing for sure.

Check FDA’s new recall site at:  Recalls & Safety Alerts, USDA at:

waterbottleBottled water makers make millions off people who believe their products are purer than tap water, but consumers do not realize that they are less regulated than plain old tap water, according to a U.S. Congressional report released on Wednesday.

Bottled water means money down the drain for consumers and the environment. Bottled water costs up to 1,900 times more than tap water and uses up to 2,000 times more energy to produce and deliver.

Bottled water can be dangerous to your health. Over the past several years bottled water has been recalled due to contamination by arsenic, bromate, cleaning compounds, mold, and bacteria. In April, a dozen students at a California junior high school reportedly were sickened after drinking bottled water from a vending machine.

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On August 22, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule that allows the use of irradiation to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach.

It is the first time the FDA has allowed any produce to be irradiated at levels needed to protect against illness.

The announcement is a partial response to a food additive petition that was filed by the National Food Processors Association (now Grocery Manufacturers’ Association or GMA) in 2000. That petition also covered the irradiation of pre-processed meat and poultry, raw and pre-processed vegetables and fruits, and other multi-ingredient products containing cooked or uncooked meat or poultry.  In 2007, GMA asked FDA for a partial response on the question of the irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach.

Although this announcement only applies to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, other fresh produce, such as tomatoes or peppers, are included in the Grocery Manufacturers Association petition. The FDA says it is continuing to evaluate the use of irradiation in additional foods.

In the US, the Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) of 1958 places food irradiation under the food additive regulations.  Read the rest of this entry »

Three months into one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks in history, with no specific details or certainty, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now telling consumers that peppers from Mexico are to blame.

“The collective review of the current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeño pepper (only one?)originated in Mexico. Additional traceback and traceforward information obtained this week has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigosa produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas–from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample–was not the original source of the contamination.”

Mexican officials said the findings were “premature.”

Initially, tomatoes seemed the most likely source of the outbreak. The FDA told consumers to avoid certain raw tomatoes on June 7, prompting grocery chains and some restaurants nationwide to stop offering them. As a result over $100 million in tomatoes have been destroyed. The agency lifted that ban last week.

So far, 1,294 people infected with the same type of Salmonella Saintpaul have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, according to the CDC.,

The tomato/pepper/cilantro fiasco goes on. More people sick, harvests destroyed, farmers ruined, $100 million down the drain, and still no answers as to why over 1,220 people have contracted a food borne illness that up until now was extremely rare.

Late yesterday, in what could be the ultimate flip-flop, the FDA announced that tomatoes are ok to eat. Sort of. They say it doesn’t mean that tomatoes harvested in the spring are cleared (try guessing which ones those are). It just means that the tomatoes in fields and stores today are safe to eat, said Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety chief.

The source of the outbreak of salmonella still isn’t known. The latest suspect is jalapeno peppers. Also still on the suspect list is fresh cilantro.

Thursday’s move to attempt to create some perception that the problem has been resolved, comes as the tomato industry estimates its losses at more than $100 million,

Just coincidentally, the tomato industry held an unprecedented meeting with FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and other officials on Monday. They (of course) have welcomed the new announcement.


The Food and Drug Administration has expanded a salmonella investigation focused on raw tomatoes to other fresh produce commonly consumed with tomatoes.

David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, declined today to specify what new products the agency is looking at, and added that tomatoes remain the top suspect. Read the rest of this entry »

FDA tomato cluster F—

June 18, 2008

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that a localized cluster of nine cases has emerged in the nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes, but in a conference call with news reporters today, David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner of foods, declined to name the geographic region or where the people consumed the tainted tomatoes.

Based on interviews with 202 people, illness onset dates ranged from April 10 (over two months ago) to June 5. At least 43 people were hospitalized, according to an update today from the CDC. Though no deaths have officially been linked to the outbreak, a Texas man in his sixties who died of cancer was infected with the outbreak strain, which may have contributed to his death, the CDC has said.

Acheson said the identification of the case cluster is helpful because it allows investigators to better trace the source of the tomatoes, from foodservice facilities to distributors and possibly to the farm. “The weakest link is individual patient recall,” he said. “But with a cluster you have invoices and other records to look at.”

FDA officials said they were prohibited from naming the region and where the people who were part of the cluster may have eaten. However,Tim Hadac, a spokesman with the Chicago Department of Public Health, said nine people got sick with Salmonella infections after eating at a Chicago restaurant in mid May, according to a Jun 13 Bloomberg News report. Hadac told Bloomberg that the restaurant has multiple locations around Chicago but isn’t part of a national chain. It’s unclear if the cluster the FDA identified is the same as the Chicago one.

Ian Williams, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) OutbreakNet team, told reporters that the agency still considers the outbreak ongoing. Read the rest of this entry »