A critical food safety source used by livestock producers and vets to ensure pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk and eggs has been shut down.

Despite efforts by US veterinarians to convince Congress, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration to provide long-term funding, The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) has begun closing down.

The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), which needed an immediate cash infusion to stay open, and long-term funding of US$2.5m per year, is used by veterinarians, livestock producers, and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists.

"It's disheartening, even tragic, that a programme that costs so little yet does so much to keep our food supply safe is not being funded," said Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Government relations division. "We're talking about a cost of less than a penny per American to help keep meat, eggs and dairy products free of drugs and pesticides."

The AVMA has been leading efforts to fund FARAD, which is administered by the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and operates out of North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the University of California-Davis.

Through lobbying and grassroots efforts, the AVMA worked with Congress to have language authorising FARAD at $2.5m inserted in this year's Farm Bill. The USDA, however, never incorporated the funding in its budget, and Congress has provided neither emergency funding nor appropriations.

Lutschaunig said the last-ditch hope of keeping FARAD from completely closing is for the USDA or stakeholders to fund the programme.

The AVMA is planning an emergency stakeholder meeting to discuss the future of FARAD.