After a year-long delay, two sweeping new food safety rules that will for the first time mandate produce safety standards and preventive controls nationwide will be released today and published to the Federal Register on Monday, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s a big deal that these two are coming out because it’s the central framework for prevention,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Comissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with Food Safety News. “We’re eager to get to the next phase of the process.” Read more

You’ve probably never heard of the Microbiological Data Program (MDP) but if you eat fresh produce, you should, because it’s currently on President Obama’s budgetary chopping block. The MDP is a small ($5 million annually) pathogen monitoring program tucked away in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It tests fruits and vegetables for deadly bugs like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria.

While the testing program may be inexpensive, it’s critical because no other federal mechanism currently exists to conduct regular testing of fresh produce. (The Food and Drug Administration—which technically has jurisdiction over produce safety—conducts only limited inspections.)

To date, the MDP has tested high-risk produce such as alfalfa sprouts, cilantro, green onions, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and other leafy greens. Every one of these vegetables has caused a food-borne illness outbreak or recall over the years, some of them lethal thanks in part to an industrialized food system that transports bugs nationwide. You might recall, a shocking 34 people (and counting) died from a listeria outbreak last year in cantaloupe in 26 states (yes, melon–also on USDA’s tested produce list). That tragedy alone should cause the Obama Administration to rethink this thoughtless budget cut. Read more

Ending a dramatic months-long legislative limbo, the House approved major food safety legislation 215-144 Tuesday. The FDA Food Safety Modernization act, the first significant reform of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over the food supply since 1938, is expected to be signed by President Obama before Christmas.

The legislation survived a near-fatal constitutional snafu, fierce debate over controversial amendmentsfilibuster threats, and managed to gain ground amidst a jam-packed legislative agenda in one of the most productive Congresses in recent history. In the last 18 months, food safety legislation cleared the Senate twice and the House three times. Read more