With widespread outbreaks of salmonella and listeria, consumers are becoming increasingly more concerned about the safety of the food that they are eating. And the end of a government food safety testing program isn’t making many food safety advocates and consumers feel any better about the safety of the foods that they are ingesting.
According to Bloomberg, a federal program that tests random produce samples for salmonella and other pathogens ended on November 9 as part of a phase-out of the $4.4 million food- testing program at the end of the year. Congress chose not to fund the program in its fiscal 2013 budget – a move that has angered many food safety advocates.
The produce industry lobbied heavily to end the program, arguing that the program did little to protect that publish and that the USDA is not the appropriate agency to over produce testing.
Many consumer advocates disagree, however, expressing concern that the lack of screening will jeopardize the health of consumers. U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement, “Just last week, potentially contaminated produce was recalled because of this critical program. It is imperative that we continue this cost-effective program that supports more than three-quarters of federal produce testing.”
The discontinued program, known as the Microbiological Data Program, began in April 2001. The testing program allows for the collection of information about contaminated produce, which is then submitted to a national database at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in order to match data against outbreaks. The program has resulted in at least 30 recalls, according to data analyzed by Food Safety News.
The Bloomberg article explains that the discontinued program conducts more than 14,000 tests annually, according to the USDA. Between 2009 to July 2012, 108 positive tests for salmonella were conducted, two positive tests were found for E.coli O157:H7, and nine positive listeria tests were conducted.
Several recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have been the result of contaminated produce, including the salmonella outbreak earlier this year caused by tainted cantaloupe and a listeria outbreak last year also caused by tainted cantaloupe.
The Chicago product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are committed to product safety and consumer rights. Contact one of our Chicago food safety attorneys at (312) 600-0000 for more information on the cantaloupe salmonella outbreak and food safety.