Despite extensive efforts to convince the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration to provide long-term funding, a critical food safety resource is permanently shutting down, leaving in the lurch information essential to protecting America's food supply.
The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) -- used by veterinarians, livestock producers and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists to ensure that drug, environmental and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk and eggs -- began shutting down Oct. 1. The program needed an immediate cash infusion to stay open, and ultimately, long-term funding of $2.5 million per year.
The American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA) has been leading efforts to fund FARAD, which is administered by the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education & Extension Service and operates out of North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the University of California-Davis.
Through lobbying and grassroots efforts, AVMA worked with Congress to have language authorizing FARAD at $2.5 million inserted in this year's farm bill. USDA, however, never incorporated the funding in its budget, and Congress has provided neither emergency funding nor appropriations.
"It's disheartening -- even tragic -- that a program that costs so little yet does so much to keep our food supply safe is not being funded," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of AVMA's Government Relations Division. "We're talking about a cost of less than a penny per American to help keep meat, eggs and dairy products free of drugs and pesticides."
More information on FARAD can be found on the AVMA's food safety advocacy web site, www.keepourfoodsafe.org.