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Washington, D.C. - Statement of Nasima Hossain, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate, on food safety inspections in fresh produce.
Dole is recalling nearly 800 bags of bagged lettuce, because a random sample test in New York state found the lettuce contaminated with Salmonella. Bags are being recalled from grocery stores in several states. But is random state testing really the most effective way to protect the public from hazards in fresh produce? Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the majority of foodborne illnesses are from fresh produce. And the one program that regularly tests pathogens in fresh produce is potentially slated to be cut.
“The Agriculture Department’s tiny $5 million Microbiological Data Program screens high-risk fresh produce throughout the year for bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses in fresh produce leaving inspections in the hands of produce producers. Is this really conducive to keeping consumers safe?
“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, which is thoughtless and will leave the public increasingly in more danger.”
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