April 17, 2012

PIRG: Produce testing more important than ever

The U.S. PIRG (Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups) is flagging the occasion of Dole’s weekend recall of nearly 800 cases of bagged lettuce to call into question the potential elimination of the largest produce testing program in the U.S.

In a statement released Monday, U.S. PIRG said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “tiny $5 million” Microbiological Data Program (MDP) screens high-risk fresh produce for salmonella, E. coli and listeria. The program has been targeted for elimination in the Obama administration’s proposed budget for 2013.

“Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses in fresh produce,” according to the statement.

“In view of the accelerated increase in foodborne illnesses linked to fresh produce, and this latest recall of bagged lettuce, we think the USDA should reconsider cutting this program.”



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