FDA shares data from ongoing cucumber and hot pepper sampling program

The agency is testing these products because they have previously been associated with outbreaks of foodborne illness.

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As part of its mission to ensure food safety and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers, FDA released interim test results from its concentrated sampling of cucumbers and hot peppers.

In 2014, the FDA adopted a new, proactive sampling program for a variety of commodities to learn more about the prevalence of disease-causing bacteria and to help the agency identify patterns that may help predict and prevent future contamination. These large-scale microbiological sampling assignments were designed to collect a statistically determined number of samples of certain commodities over 12 to 18 months and test them for certain types of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

FDA began sampling and testing cucumbers and hot peppers because these products have previously been associated with large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness and may come into contact with contaminated water, soil or equipment during growing, harvesting, and post-harvest. The agency is in the process of collecting and testing approximately 1,600 samples of each commodity for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. The hot peppers also are being tested for Shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

As of October 1, 2016, FDA has tested 1,050 cucumber samples and 1,130 hot pepper samples. Of the cucumber samples, 15 tested positive for Salmonella while the rest tested negative for all of the targeted pathogens. Of the hot pepper samples, 35 tested positive for Salmonella, and one tested positive for a strain of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli that was determined to be incapable of causing severe illness, while the rest tested negative for all of the targeted pathogens. This testing is still underway and no conclusions can be drawn at this time.

As more data becomes available, FDA will share test results from sampling assignments, including total number of samples collected and tested, sample type, and pathogen detected for positive samples.

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