A couple of months ago I reported on a move by the House of Representatives to cut the Microbiological Data Program, the only U.S. program that regularly tests produce for the kind of pathogens that killed or sickened thousands through contaminated German sprouts earlier this summer.
The issue now falls to a Senate appropriations committee, which is scheduled to make its recommendations for cuts to food safety and nutrition programs tomorrow.
Although critics of the program feel it has overstepped its boundaries by sharing information with the Food and Drug Administration when it finds contaminated food, others believe interagency sharing is appropriate as the MDP acts as one of our few national safety nets against a broad array of illness from produce.
The FDA, for example, is able to spot-check about 1,000 samples of produce a year while the MDP routinely checks around 15,000 samples of vulnerable produce.
Advocates for better food safety point to August food recalls -- including Del Monte cantaloupes that allegedly sickened dozens of people with salmonella, and Cargill ground turkey that was linked by federal agencies to at least one death — as reasons to improve rather than scale back food safety programs. But in a budget-cutting climate, it's hard to say what will stay and what will go.
Senate to vote on funding for produce safety program
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