I get a lot of emails and comments, most saying things that I tend not to print.  However, this email I got this morning is one of the more disturbing one I have received lately:

There is a program run by USDA called the microbiological data program (MDP) (www.ams.usda.gov/mdp).

Screen shot 2011-06-17 at 7.49.32 AM.pngThis program collects fresh produce samples from distribution centers and terminal markets from key states across the US and test them for pathogens (salmonella and shiga toxin carrying e coli). The produce industry hates this program as it has found pathogens in domestic and imported samples and FDA has responded to the information and recalled products. The produce industry via the USDA Fruit and vegetable advisory committee recommended to USDA and congress that the program be terminated (http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5090885). Congress, yielding to industry pressure is going along with this (http://www.appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/FY_2012_AGRICULTURE_FULL_COMMITTEE_REPORT.pdf see pg 20-21).

MDP cost the taxpayers $4.5 million dollars a year to operate. For the past 3 years, they have been testing 15,000 samples a year (both domestic and imports, organic and conventional, pre-washed and unwashed). In comparison, FDA, who has regulatory responsibility and gets substantial funds to perform food safety activities, has only conducted domestic surveys in 1999,2001, and 2005 testing only a about 1000 samples of multiple commodities (so a few samples of each commodity) (http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/FruitsVegetablesJuices/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm118306.htm). FDA primarily test only at the ports of entry and then less than 1% of the food coming across the boarder.

With the current outbreak in Europe with a pathogenic e. coli, our elected congressional leaders want to shut down this program? This program actually test for STEC’s

The idea of MDP is surveillance, HACCP alone without testing to verify it is working is worthless.

This is a program that works, actually serves a purpose and is efficiently run ($4.5 million). FDA heavily uses the MDP data.

Any help would be most welcome. The produce industry is very powerful. We the American public need this program.

We have not had a major leafy green outbreak since the Spinach and then Taco Bell Outbreaks in 2006.  Does not that argue for keeping a testing program in place?  Sure, there likely have been recalls or product withdraws, but isn’t getting tainted product out of the market a good thing?

It appears that the Republican’s continue to accept the belief that the free market will solve all ills despite the 48,000,000 reasons yearly that it is not the case. As Lyndsey Layton reported:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House subcommittee that wrote the agriculture appropriations bill, said the cuts to food safety were justified because the nation’s food supply was “99.99 percent safe.”

“Do we believe that McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Safeway and Kraft Food and any brand name that you think of, that these people aren’t concerned about food safety?” Kingston said on the House floor. “The food supply in America is very safe because the private sector self-polices, because they have the highest motivation. They don’t want to be sued, they don’t want to go broke. They want their customers to be healthy and happy.”

I appreciate that Rep Kingston likes this trial lawyer so much. However, the last line of defense should not be civil litigation. It is a blunt instrument for change.

I am heading to the airport to attend the National Environmental Health Association.  Anyone in the “real” media want to take a crack at this?