USDA microbiological data program could be scrapped
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has decided not include funding for the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Microbiological Data Program in its budget bill for 2013, website Foodsafetynews.com reported.
The US$5 million program has been in operation for more than a decade, testing 15,000 fruit and vegetable samples every year to gather E.coli data from hot peppers, bagged lettuce, cilantro, canteloupe, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes and spinach.
The produce is collected in 11 states with isolated pathogens sent for pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) tests. This data is then uploaded to Disease Control PulseNet, where it can be compared with illness and outbreaks, the story reported.
The committee's budget request to cut funding labeled the program as a 'low priority' as it had a low impact and was not the core mission Agriculture Marketing Service.
"We do see the MDP program as duplicative of similar efforts at FDA, so this would streamline efforts and reduce that duplication without reducing crucial food safety efforts done by government and industry," Produce Marketing Association (PMA) vice president of government relations Kathy Means told the website.
"FDA, as the primary regulator of produce safety, should be the single source for testing and data collection programs. The USDA program takes too long to bring results while products may still be in the marketplace - that is, the timing is too long for this testing program to impact safety in the event of an outbreak," she was quoted as saying.