A draft guidance set by the FDA, on the processing of most fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, sets out standards producers should follow in reducing food safety hazards. The guidelines are aimed at decreasing food poisoning outbreaks common to fresh-cut produce sold to consumers in a ready-to-eat form.

Shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, salad mixes with raw vegetable, peeled baby carrots, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, cut celery stalks, shredded cabbage, cut melons, sliced pineapple and sectioned grapefruit have become popular convenience items with consumers.

"Fresh cut produce is the fastest growing sector of the fresh produce industry," stated acting FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. "This document should help to improve safety by providing clearer guidance on how to reduce health hazards that are potentially introduced during the production process."

The FDA also recommends that processors encourage those along the supply chain to adopt safe practices. These include produce growers, packers, distributors, transporters, importers, exporters, retailers, food service operators and consumers.

These practices include establishing a company policy that employees report any active case of illness to supervisors before beginning work and training.

Fresh produce is catching up with chicken as a major culprit of Salmonella infections in the US, according to an analysis by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. The lobby group’s report found that produce-related outbreaks tend to be larger than poultry-related outbreaks, and sicken more people, sometimes hundreds at a time.