CFA welcomes FSA’s recommendation, endorsed by ACMSF at its meeting on 11 March 20081, to change its advice to consumers regarding the rewashing of pre- washed ready to eat (RTE) leafy salads before consumption.
CFA has long argued that advice to consumers to re-wash is unnecessary and introduces the possibility of cross-contamination in the kitchen. Research has also suggested that additional washing of fresh produce provides little additional benefit in reducing contamination2.
Using published data and information provided by CFA, FSA and ACMSF have reviewed the evidence and decided that its advice to consumers may not be appropriate. In coming to its decision the FSA and ACMSF took into account:
• the excellent safety record of RTE leafy salads;
• industry’s implementation of strict controls to assure safety;
• produce safety being primarily assured by using the correct field controls to prevent contamination at source;
• washing mainly removing soil which harbours microorganisms,
• re-washing professionally pre-washed leaf does not remove appreciably more microorganisms.
In their report to the ACMSF, the FSA acknowledged the role of CFA, in particular its Microbiological Guidance for Produce Suppliers to Chilled Food Manufacturers (MGG2) and its Best Practice Guidelines for the Production of Chilled Food, which were developed by CFA in conjunction with retailers, distributors and Government scientists, many of whom are microbiology experts. MGG2 sets out in detail the procedures to be followed to ensure safety and quality and include the introduction of HACCP and risk assessment systems, microbiological assessment of irrigation water, hygiene provision for field workers, hygiene training of harvest staff, hygienic facilities for harvesting, handling, chilling, packaging and distribution, assigning a short shelf life and providing a chilled supply chain to minimise potential for microbiological growth. The Best Practice Guidelines cover intake of raw materials to the production of leafy salads.
In welcoming the decision, Kaarin Goodburn, CFA’s Secretary General said, “We are very pleased that FSA advice is to be changed. Safety is CFA members’ first priority and our members operate to the highest standards as laid down in our Guidelines which are mandatory for all our members. We welcome the change in emphasis in FSA’s approach in recognising the key food safety role of field hygiene to minimise potential for contamination at source. We call on FSA to support the introduction of such standards throughout the fresh produce supply base, including herbs and wholesale.”
1. Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food. 11 March 2008 endorsed FSA recommendation to change its advice advising consumers to re-wash pre-washed RTE leafy salads.
2. Palumbo et al (2007). Recommendations for handling fresh-cut leafy green salads by consumers and retail food service operators. Food Protection Trends Vol 27 No 11. pp 892-898.
12 Mar 2008