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Ag department gets $600,000 grant for food safety

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) learned last week that it has won $600,000 in grants from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enhance the state's food safety capabilities. The three-year grants will help the Agriculture Department more quickly trace contaminated foods to grocery stores and other distribution points, and will help bolster MDA efforts to ensure that recalled products are quickly and fully withdrawn from the marketplace.

MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson said the grants will be a welcome boost for the Minnesota food safety model, which has come to be regarded as a national leader.

"Minnesota has developed a national reputation for leadership in food safety thanks to a strong collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Health, the University of Minnesota, and our federal and local partners," Commissioner Frederickson said. "We are grateful for these grants because they will further strengthen our food safety capabilities here and across the country."

In its grant application, MDA proposed to explore the use of web-based technologies to improve the flow of information between the food industry and regulatory agencies. This approach is expected to accelerate food investigations and recalls, meaning that fewer people will be at risk from contaminated products.

According to MDA Dairy and Food Division Director Heidi Kassenborg, the grant award also enables MDA to share its project innovations with food safety officials across the country.

"Every minute we can shave off the time it takes to trace contaminated products and get them off the shelves means fewer people getting sick," Kassenborg said. "These proposals are focused on developing and sharing processes that improve information flow during a foodborne illness investigation, and we believe that will translate into better food safety for people around the country."