MDP finds fans with Michigan lawmakers - The Packer

MDP finds fans with Michigan lawmakers

05/22/2012 04:43:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstNot everybody is ready to give the boot to MDP.

With the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program recommended for elimination by both the Obama Administration and the Senate Appropriations Committee, a dozen lawmakers in Michigan’s House have sponsored a resolution urging Congress and the President to continue funding the controversial program for fiscal year 2013.

That probably won't happen, but you have to admire the fact that Michigan's lawmakers are paying attention.

Michigan House Resolution 265, pending before the Michigan House Agriculture Committee, noted that Michigan is one of eleven states that participate in the testing program.

“MDP tests have triggered 19 produce recalls in the past two years. A loss of funding could impact the timeliness of response to foodborne illness outbreaks,” the resolution states.

Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, is the chief sponsor of the resolution.

The program, which began in 2001, collects information on the prevalence of harmful bacteria in fresh produce. Data is collected from more than 600 food distribution sites in the United States and checked for the presence of salmonella, pathogenic E. coli and listeria.

In 2011, approximately 17,000 samples were collected from cantaloupe, cilantro, hot peppers, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and tomatoes, according to the resolution sponsored by Potvin.

The resolution said that the MDP annual budget of $5 million allows the USDA laboratories, including a laboratory in Michigan, to maintain experienced staff, keep current with changing technologies and increase the number of samples tested each year.

Calling MDP an “early warning system,” the resolution said that with it the USDA and Michigan are able to promote a safer food supply.

Industry critics say MDP has problems that warrant its elimination.

Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, said the program duplicates work the industry and the FDA already are engaged in. She also said the MDP testing isn’t timely enough to be an effective recall mechanism in the event a pathogens are found on produce.

“If (testing) is going to continue to be used as a regulatory tool, then it needs to be done at FDA,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

MDP isn't gone yet, but Michigan's support for the program isn't likely to tip the scales in its favor.



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MDP Fan    
Michigan  |  May, 23, 2012 at 06:53 AM

Wow, what a shock! Someone from Produce Marketing doesn't like MDP. The truth is that FDA, or no other entity, has a program that even comes close to the testing provided by the Microbiological Data Program. Indicating that there is some type of duplication is just an excuse to avoid possible consequences should pathogens be recovered. As for providing timely results, it takes time to be sure and provide defensible results. Successful recalls have occurred and no doubt the consumer has avoided illness or even worse. It is a shame that such a strong lobby can trump public safety.

Food Safety Advocate    
Michigan  |  May, 23, 2012 at 08:19 AM

It is no surprise that the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association would be in fair of the elimination of the MDP program. They believe it is in their self interest to avoid the costs of recalling contaminated produce. What a short sighted view since many establishments have been put out of business with major foodborne illness outbreaks. The MDP program strives to identify the problem before it results in many unnecessary deaths from contaminated produce. The statements from these produce associations are blatantly inaccurate. First, MDP is the ONLY monitoring program in the nation. It does not duplicate FDA as FDA DOES NOT have any monitoring programs. Does it duplicate industry? That's like having the fox monitor the chicken coop. The screening of MDP samples is completed within 48 hours. Confirming a positive typically takes five days. I call that a pretty effective recall mechanism.

Brian Sauders    
Albany, NY  |  May, 25, 2012 at 05:29 AM

Ironically industry seems to be missing the point that MDP testing has shown the vast majority of produce has no detectable levels of pathogens under surveillance. When MDP has identified foodborne pathogens in produce, we (we are an MDP lab) assess whether the pathogen's molecular fingerprint has been associated with human illness (i.e. outbreaks) through our involvement in the CDC PulseNet surveillance program (http://www.cdc.gov/pulsenet). In some cases (http://tinyurl.com/7frcq9m) the pathogens we and other MDP labs have identified have been linked to multi-state outbreaks. In other cases, we have identified products that are contaminated with pathogenic organisms that can be recalled from distribution before any human cases of illness are reported. Given the high costs of foodborne illness (http://tinyurl.com/6vgohyp), it seems like the comparatively small investment in MDP is money wisely spent (http://tinyurl.com/A-Tiny-Program-that-Matters).

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