Listeria, Salmonella and undeclared allergens were the source of the greatest number of incidents of food contamination logged in the latest US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report.
In the year from September 8, 2011, to September 7, 2012, listeria monocytogenes in fresh cut onions, salmonella Braenderup in imported mangoes and undeclared milk in a nationally distributed snack bar sparked the most reports.
A total of 1,095 reported entries of food contamination were logged in year three of the FDA's reporting system, an increase of 882 from year two. Of these, 136 concerned the onion issue, 104 concerned the Salmonella scare and 43 concerned the snack bar problem.
Report entries regarding listeria monocytogenes rose by 43% from year two to year three, with fresh cut produce, agricultural commodities and dairy products being the main culprits. Entries concerning undeclared allergens also increased, with bakery accounting for the largest amount.
The FDA report is now in its third year and according to the organisation, from year two to year three, the numbers of reported incidents involving undeclared allergens and fresh-cut produce increased.
There were also increases by an amount of five entries or more between year two and year three for soup; raw agricultural commodities; and chocolate, confections and candy commodities.
However, reports involving spices and seasonings, frozen foods and prepared foods decreased. Salmonella reports decreased, especially where contamination of spices and seasonings was concerned, according to the FDA, where a decrease in primary entries occurred from 23 in year two to five in year three.
High risk areas
The FDA said the data compiled in the report had helped flag up foods that previously had not been viewed as high risk areas.
In addition, the reporting system had helped significantly mitigate the risk posed to consumers by specific instances of food contamination.
For instance, reports concerning listeria monocytogenes contamination of fresh cut onions had helped to manage recalls effectively and prevent any reported cases of human illness linked to the problem.
The FDA also worked collaboratively with the firm supplying the onions to implement measures to prevent further occurrences of contamination.
The consumer complaint about an allergic reaction to the snack bar containing undeclared milk led to a swift recall and no further allergic reactions being reported.
The FDA said the system of reporting had been enhanced to make information simpler, clearer and more easily accessible.