FDA to Develop Strategy to Enhance Safety of Berries

The move is in response to a history of hepatitis A and norovirus outbreaks linked to berries.

July 27, 2022

Fresh Berries

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing a food safety prevention strategy to enhance the safety of fresh and frozen berries in response to a history of hepatitis A (HAV) and norovirus (NoV) outbreaks linked to the consumption of both fresh and frozen fruit.

The agency said the food safety prevention strategy for berries will be informed by surveillance sampling. In August, the FDA plans to resume an assignment to collect and test frozen berries that it paused at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort seeks to estimate the prevalence of HAV and NoV in frozen strawberries, raspberries and blackberries and to help the FDA identify sites where practices or conditions may exist that constitute safety vulnerabilities.

To date, the FDA has collected and tested more than 1,100 samples under this assignment and plans to collect and test about 427 more to meet public health goals. The agency does not plan to collect or test any additional frozen strawberries as it has already met its collection target.

The agency plans to work collaboratively with industry, academia and regulatory partners in the development of the food-safety prevention strategy to identify measures that can be taken to limit or prevent contamination from occurring throughout the berry supply chain, approaches to re-enforce control measures and their application and areas where additional research is needed.

In the U.S., there have been four HAV outbreaks and three NoV outbreaks linked to frozen berries from 1990 to 2016, and since 2011, there have been three HAV outbreaks linked to fresh berries, including a current outbreak linked to fresh organic strawberries.

Globally, from 1983 to 2018, there were 50 outbreaks attributed to frozen berries, with 36 caused by NoV and 14 by HAV. Freezing preserves berries but generally does not inactivate viruses that may be introduced at various points in the supply chain, such as by infected workers, contaminated water or contaminated food contact surfaces. In addition, fresh berries are generally eaten raw without a kill-step that could eliminate pathogens.

The CDC posts food safety alerts and investigation notices for multistate foodborne disease outbreaks. Here is a list of the latest outbreaks.

NACS has several food-safety resources for foodservice providers. Find them on the Food Safety topics page.

NACS is hosting its first food-safety conference this fall. Join food safety, foodservice, quality assurance and risk management professionals for the inaugural NACS Food Safety Conference on Saturday, October 1, 2022, the first day of the 2022 NACS Show in Las Vegas.