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State agency seeks fee hike for food safety

Jan 21, 2015

Credit Morguefile

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is asking lawmakers to boost inspection fees for its food safety program over the next three years.

"Our ability to spend the quality time needed with Michigan's food businesses is hindered without an additional investment in food safety," said Jennifer Holton, spokesperson for the department. "And that's what we're asking for."

Holton said the fees have not changed in 15 years, while the department needs more inspectors to keep up with changes in the food industry.

The state licenses and inspects about 18 thousand food retail, processing and warehouse facilities. The agency checks for compliance with federal and state food safety regulations,  investigates possible food-borne illnesses, and provides emergency response.

Holton said  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends  that one inspector be in charge of no more than 320 facilities, while "right now Michigan's inspectors average 409 facilities per inspector."

Fees charged by the agency vary by facility type, said Holton.  For example, the fee for a retail food establishment now is $67. The fee would increase by annual increments to a maximum of $180 per year in the third year, under the department's recommendations. 

"This is really about asking industry to pay their share to ensure the safety of the food supply," said Holton. However, the higher fees will not fully support the food safety program. Current fees pay for 26% of the program's cost, and the new fee structure would pay for 37%. 

-- Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio News