USDA to give $5.5 million to study E. coli in produce
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will held support new research on keeping fresh produce safe from deadly bacteria, officials said on Tuesday.
The department will contribute $5.5 million for collaborative research in California into the origins of E. Coli 0157:H7, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, kidney failure and even death, and to vulnerabilities in produce agriculture and the food supply chain.
Three people died and hundreds more were sickened in the past year in E. coli outbreaks related to bagged spinach. Outbreaks also struck patrons of Taco Bell and other restaurants.
"This research will help producers identify the sources of E. coli 0157:H7 and ways to avoid contamination," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control identified 17,252 laboratory-confirmed cases of food poisoning in 2006 using a surveillance tool that studies 10 states, or about 15 percent of the U.S. population.