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WASHINGTON -- Rep. Sam Farr, (D-Carmel, Calif.) has introduced legislation designed to prevent a future outbreak of E. coli bacteria in the nation's spinach crop.
The Spinach Research and Recovery Act of 2006 would provide $26 million in federal funding for food safety research dedicated to the fresh produce industry. It would also provide emergency funds for spinach producers and handlers who suffered losses earlier this year during the E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 200 people across 26 states and killed three.
The outbreak was traced to a spinach field located in Farr's district in San Juan Bautista.
"Because of the timing of the E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach, Congress was not in session to address these issues promptly," said Farr. "I am introducing this bill days before the end of session so that we can go into the next Congress with a legislative package ready to go."
Farr said he's spent considerable time talking to colleagues in both the House and Senate, making them aware of the urgent public health and produce industry concerns resulting from the E. coli in spinach outbreak and said he's "hopeful that the groundwork we're laying this week will ensure quick action in the new session."
Farr said having a safe spinach supply that American consumers can have confidence in is especially important in view of spinach's health benefits.
"At a time when doctors and parents are concerned about obesity and harmful eating habits among American adults and children, we need to do everything possible to make sure consumers are not turned off to one of the healthiest foods out there, spinach. Significant research has been done on protecting our meat supply from E. coli outbreaks, but very little has been done on protecting our vegetables. With more research, we can have a safe, healthy product for adults, children and Popeye to enjoy," said Farr.