Produce-inspection program axed

Funding for fruit and vegetable safety testing not included in federal budget

Federal budget plans do not include funding for the only program that regularly tests produce for pathogens.

President Obama did not request funds for the Microbiological Data Program—run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—in his most recent budget revision, with Congress also overlooking the program while penning agriculture spending bills, according to The Washington Post. The USDA suggested transferring the program to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates fruits and vegetables, but the FDA lacks funding for additional inspectors.

Consumer advocates have decried the decision to cut the program, which was funded with roughly $5 million last year.

The program initiated 30 recalls since 2009 amidst mounting evidence that fruits and vegetables are major carriers of food-borne illness.