FDA announced today that it was introducing a multi-year tomato safety initiative to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses traced to tomato consumption in the United States.  The initiative comes on the heels of two Salmonella outbreaks traced to tomatoes last summer and fall.

In a press release announcing the initiative, FDA stated:

The initiative, part of FDA’s Produce Safety Action Plan, is a collaborative effort between FDA and state health and agriculture departments in Florida and Virginia. Several universities and members of the produce industry also are part of the effort. It will begin during this year’s growing season for Virginia in the summer and for Florida in the fall.

During the past decade, the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes has been linked to 12 different outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States. Those outbreaks include 1,840 confirmed cases of illness. The majority of these outbreaks have been traced to products from Florida and the eastern shore of Virginia; however, tomato-associated outbreaks also have been traced to tomatoes from California, Georgia, Ohio, and South Carolina. The effort will include identifying practices or conditions that potentially lead to product contamination, which will allow FDA to continue to improve its guidance and policy on tomato safety. The initiative will evaluate the need for additional produce safety research, education, and outreach.

FDA also said that the Tomato Safety Initiative will go hand in hand with the Leafy Greens Initiative, which was launched in 2006.