Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama Eliminates Life-Saving Produce Inspection Program

I fully agree with Food Safety News that the most egregious food safety story of 2012 was the killing of the USDA's Microbiological Data Program ("MDP") that performed "80 percent of federal testing for foodborne pathogens of fresh fruit and vegetables," including:
  • E. coli 0157:H7 - A bacterium that can produce a deadly toxin and causes approximately 73,000 cases of foodborne illness each year in the U.S.
  • Salmonella - Most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States, and the most common cause of foodborne deaths. Responsible for 1.4 million cases of foodborne illness a year. 
  • NorovirusThe leading viral cause of diarrhea in the United States. Poor hygiene causes Norovirus to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items.
  • Shigella Causes an estimated 448,000 cases of diarrhea illnesses per year. Poor hygiene causes Shigella to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items. 
Death by Produce
"CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases." (Source: Center for Disease Control website)

In 2010 the National Institutes of Health acknowledged "fresh fruits and vegetables as major vehicles of foodborne illness." 

"MDP was killed because the produce lobby wanted it killed."
"The program’s demise likely means there will be more illnesses and deaths in 2013 from foodborne pathogens associated with fresh fruits and vegetables," per Food Safety News. 

"MDP was killed because the produce lobby wanted it killed. The Obama Administration went along by not asking Congress to renew MDP’s funding of about $5 million a year, and lawmakers were content to let it expire."  (Source - Food Safety News) 

A highly effective $5 million dollar federal program killed for political expediency. A $5 million program that annually can save thousands of American lives. 

$5 million is an microscopic portion of the $3.8 trillion 2013 United States federal budget. A tiny fraction of the Defense Department's $600 billion annual budget. 

$5 million is expendable pocket-change compared to the $20 billion in annual farm subsidies (i.e. government handouts) paid by the federal government to certain certain farmers and agribusinesses.... the very growers of fruits and veggies that will no longer be inspected under MDP auspices for dangerous foodborne contaminations.

What Can You Do? 
1. Complain loudly and clearly to your elected representatives in Congress. Now. Restoring one $5 million public safety program should be an easy task. 

2. Be very, very careful about where you buy your fruits and veggies. My advice is to either buy directly from local, reputable, certified organic sources, or from the largest grocery chains that presumably have in place quality control procedures. 

Please note that organic produce is not immune from foodborne contamination. However, organic certification does denote a very high-bar for quality control of a grower's produce. 

3. Grow your own.

No comments:

Post a Comment