In a webinar this week about the 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new protocol for the development and registration of antimicrobial treatments for preharvest agricultural water. The new protocol was developed in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

FDA’s announcement reads,

Agricultural water can be a major conduit of pathogens that can contaminate produce. FDA recognizes that effective treatments could be a valuable tool in helping to prevent foodborne illness associated with the consumption of produce. However, there are currently no registered antimicrobial treatment products that are authorized to control microorganisms of public health significance for use on agricultural fields, or for treatment of irrigation water systems or ponds.

A testing protocol, which is intended to help companies develop data on the effectiveness of their products in inactivating pathogens, such as E. coli or Salmonella, in preharvest agricultural water, was developed through a collaboration between scientists in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and subject matter experts at EPA. EPA’s approval of this protocol means that companies may use the data developed using the protocol to support registration of new treatment products, or amendments to current products’ labels, for use against foodborne pathogens in preharvest agricultural water.

This action, says FDA, is consistent with the FDA’s commitment to a New Era of Smarter Food Safety, and fulfills one of the action items in the 2020 Leafy Green STEC Action Plan.