Ray Gilmer, a spokesman for the United Fresh Produce Association, said the industry also supported funding FDA to perform scientifically rigorous tests that would help to monitor public health.
FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey, however, said she could not speculate on whether FDA would set up a parallel program, or had the money to do so.
"We don't test produce," said Lola Russell, a CDC spokeswoman. "That's just not part of our mission."
State health departments are already facing tough choices as they try to come up with enough dollars to keep food safe after tens thousands of employees have been laid off in recent years. And the FDA has always been crunched for food safety dollars, receiving so little money for food inspections that some facilities are only inspected every five to 10 years. A new food safety law President Obama signed last year aims to increase the number of inspections in the United States and abroad, but emphasizes prevention rather than increased testing of foods.
Still, both the industry and government agree that tests alone won't keep the food supply safe from contamination.
Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200, growers in California's lush Salinas River Valley have been trying out new farming and testing standards for leafy greens, some of which have since become national guidelines.
Nicknamed "America's Salad Bowl," the area grows much of the nation's lettuce, and the local industry collects reams of data about pathogens to improve their growing practices, said Hank Giclas of the trade association Western Growers.
Half a dozen major shippers are currently pooling their data about leafy greens and may share it with other businesses, the government and academic researchers in the future, Giclas said.
"It's possible that private sector testing could serve as a type of substitute. Industry has shown a willingness to share that information, so those are the kinds of things that we need to talk about," Giclas said.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report from Washington.
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